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It was good news and bad news as the nurse peered into my ears in preparation for my appointment with the dreaded ear irrigation apparatus.

“The good news is you’ve done a great job with the oil,” she said, “that right ear has cleared itself almost completely. We never irrigate if the eardrum can be seen, and I can see yours quite clearly.”

“Phew, thank goodness for that!” I said, glad that the thin film of almond oil coating everything within a 2m radius of the bedside table was going to be a thing of the past. Although I was relieved that the irrigation was off, I was slightly disappointed that the wax plug had simply melted away into my pillow instead of blowing dramatically out of my ear like a champagne cork. Moreover, I had been excited by the prospect of a miraculous increase in hearing ability after reading this paper which examines the gory correlation between the size of wax plug and increase in hearing ability after removal. Now I’d never know how big my plug had been unless I could subject the pillow to a detailed forensic analysis. Hmmm. Maybe I…

The nurse cut in before I could devise a suitable pillow vaporisation protocol.

“The bad news is that the left ear is now completely blocked.”

It struck me for a second that perhaps the original plug had not dissolved after all and had just migrated across the vacant space between my ears. Either way, I was going to have to make sure I could maintain a couple of clean canals to co-incide with my appointment at the hearing aid clinic in two weeks’ time. Given the capricious cerumenous activity of the previous week, this might prove more tricky than I had previously thought.

“We’ll just turn you round the other way and get that left ear cleared”, said the nurse enthusiastically, as I was ceremonially draped in paper towels and given a metal receptacle to hold under my ear. “Ready? Okay, here we go…”

The ear irrigation machine sprang into life and the patients in the GPs waiting room on the other side of the door were treated to a series of disgracefully loud shrieks interspersed with hysterical nervous laughter, as the pulsed water jet pummelled the offending wax plug into submission. When it was all over, I eagerly awaited some speech to test out my new hearing.

“All done. You’ll be relieved to get that out of your ear!” said the nurse, putting something in the bin. Strangely, nothing sounded any different, apart from a disturbing sloshing noise in the left ear when I bent forward to pick up my handbag. I thanked the nurse, who had been genuinely lovely, and made my way home through the park, sans hearing aid and with a slightly wet t shirt. I noted that my footsteps were still well and truly absent and, for a moment, felt slightly disappointed.

But only for a moment. I just stamped my feet a bit more heavily as I walked, and enjoyed the sound of the birds tweeting loudly in the sunshine instead.

My unofficial hearing thresholds captured on the very handy Equal Loudness Contours site one week before, and immediately after wax removal. Left ear was irrigated. Right ear was confited in almond oil. 

No Wax

Ahhhhhh, that’s better. My right ear is now open for business after Tuesday’s dramatic ear irrigation, which saw something the size, colour and consistency of a withered sultana shoot from the cookiebite ear canal into the nurse’s waiting metal receptacle.

Readers will be delighted to know that, unlike last time, I managed not to behave in a completely undignified manner while my ear was pummelled by the pulsed water jet. Instead, I adopted a pained grimace of stoicism, which I relaxed only once to shout a shaky “WHOA…OOA…AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!” as the wax plug finally came loose.

As you can see from my before and after thresholds below from the Equal Loudness site, there has been a dramatic increase in hearing after irrigation. It more than makes up for the shock of seeing what came out of my lughole…

That’s Progress For You

The end of a brief era of audible phone calls

A shiny new phone system has been installed at work, rendering Moira’s Big Phone, with its beloved Amplify button, obsolete. I sadly unplugged it, remembering the pain which had gone into getting it in the first place. I winced at the memory of the unfortunate Occupational Therapy incident back in February, where I had been hoping to get a decent phone and some low-key advice on acoustics in learning spaces. Owing to a complicated series of mis-communications caused by an over-sensitive spam filter in the HR department, I ended up being interviewed by an independent doctor instead. The whole thing started badly when Doctor Gloucester opened his file and said,

“It says here that you’re Deaf…but you’re clearly not Deaf. Not with a capital ‘D’.”

“Oh god, no…I’ve got some mild Cookie Bite hearing loss.”

“Mmmmm…” hummed the doctor, “Cookie Bite? Never heard of that. I’ll just do a quick test of your hearing.”

He whispered a series of numbers over my shoulder, in an exquisitely sibilant hiss.

“Sssssssssixty sssssssixxxxxx”

“Ssssssssseventy eightttttttttt”

“Ffffffffffffffffifty ttttttttttwo”

I heard every single one clear as a bell, and this revelation made me wonder whether I should be asking people to whisper using lots of words with ‘s’ in, instead of asking them to speak up.

“Can’t find any signs of hearing impairment, so I don’t think you’d be covered by the Disability Act”, he concluded. “Had a lecturer chap in earlier and he couldn’t hear a thing even when I shouted right into to his ears with his hearing aids in.”

“That’s awful”, I mumbled, eyeing up the emergency exit and wishing my occupational therapy request to HR had remained in their spam filter. Just as I thought my embarrassment threshold had plumbed a new depth, I realised it wasn’t over yet.

“Can I see your hearing aid for a moment?” said the doctor, suspiciously.

Oh my god, he thinks I’m suffering from the world’s first case of Munchausen’s Syndrome by Hearing Aid, I thought with horror. I abandoned the emergency exit idea and contemplated just jumping straight through the window instead, to avoid being exposed as a phone-grabbing malingerer in an expensive two page report to my employer. After a quick wipe on my t-shirt, I reluctantly handed the NHS’s beige property over, wondering how many artificial legs and glass eyes had been passed across the table for independent scrutiny over the years.

Doctor Gloucester examined it carefully, while I cringed in the corner, then handed it back with his verdict.

“Hmmmmm. Could do with one of these myself, but think I’ll wait another few years. Vanity… it’s a terrible thing.”


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