Posts Tagged 'NHS audiology'

Tails Of Woe

BatteryBot admires the sleek contours of the new Oticon Spirit Zests and gets to grips with their unfamiliar snap-on tubes, while the Easter Bunny has a go at selecting the right size domes.

“What’s the matter with you now?” said the spouse, as a heavy black cloud descended on the settee.

“I knew these tubes were too short”, I whined, “and I need tails…look! the domes have come right out of my ears. I’ve tried all the spares and they’re all too short…the sound keeps cutting out. What use is that?” I gurned for a bit, then waggled my jaw ferociously from side to side like a demented sheep to prove my point.

The spouse ignored this seductive display of wifely attractiveness, recognising it as the familiar aftermath of a hearing aid appointment. He was going to have to brace himself in order to make a masculine practical suggestion.

“You’ll have to go back, then”, he said. “Why don’t you phone clinic O in the morning.”

“I can’t…they’ll go mad…they thought they’d seen the back of me by giving me all those different domes and tubes. If I phone up less than 24 hours later, they’ll have me down as an awkward customer…I’ve probably used up their entire budget already…oh god.”

After a sleepless night of mental preparation, I phoned clinic O and was back in the soundproof room by lunchtime.

“What can we do for you today?” said the latest member of the audiology team to be assigned to my seemingly never-ending case.

I did another highly unattractive display of jaw waggling, and threw in some eyebrow raising for good measure. I then completed my new party trick by popping the domes right out of my lugholes with a simulated yawn.

“Hmmmm…I think you need a longer tube”, said the hearing aid lady, probably thinking I was suffering from some sort of complex neurological disorder after witnessing my facial gymnastics. “Let’s try the next size up.” I saw a pair of scissors come out, and this reminded me to ask her not to cut the tails off the new tubes. Snip. Too late.

I decided not to push my luck by asking for the tails to be re-instated, and said thank you instead. I wandered off down the corridor enjoying the now continuous soundscape of clinic O, and waggling my jaw with impunity.

Kookybite Innovation #4

When John the helpful audiologist laid my Siemens Reflex L to rest and tried out a Chroma S instead, I was delighted when a silver blob emerged from the box instead of a beige one. Having ascertained that the Chroma S was going to be the answer to all my problems, he then disappeared off to the mysterious NHS hearing aid cupboard, saying “Now that we know it works, I’ll get you a beige one”. My silent “Noooooooooo!” echoed down the corridor, and I deduced that the dispensing guidelines must be silver for the boys and beige for the girls.

Clara (see comments) is working tirelessly on behalf of the gals to transform her beige ear gear into a riot of colour, but just in case something goes wrong with her pioneering techniques, these stickers with attitude could come in handy.

Hearing aid maintenance for beginners

Behind the scenes at the hearing aid clinic

Went on a grand day out yesterday to a series of talks by three very interesting and entertaining artists. There was lovely scenery to look at, lots of nice people to talk to and best of all, fantastic home-made cakes at lunchtime. The scenery posed no problem at all, but all the talking and the eating of the cakes and sandwiches brought a return of Norman Collier broken microphone syndrome to the hearing aid, which kept capriciously popping out the lughole with every jaw movement. I was glad that I was not wearing my glasses, because keeping the right index finger on the bridge of the nose and the left on the tube of the hearing aid would have caused problems with holding my plate of nosh, as well as looking slightly peculiar.

When I got back home, I braced myself and phoned the hearing aid clinic to ask how often you’re meant to change the domes and did they supply them. Three or four times a year came the reply and yes they supply them. Do I need to make an appointment for that I asked, hoping I didn’t. Yes came the reply…with the enigmatic caveat ‘if you want us to do it’. I couldn’t work out what the alternative option might be, but a vision of being accosted by a shady character with the inside of his raincoat lined with knockoff 8mm hearing aid domes flashed disturbingly through my mind. To be on the safe side and to avoid showing my ignorance, I just made an appointment. When I see them in a couple of weeks, I can’t wait to enquire about the daring business of going it alone with dome replacement in future.

Safe in the arms of the NHS part 6: The Left Ear, The Right Ear and The Final Frontier

Went for the routine return visit to the ENT clinic the other day to see what’s happening in the lugholes six months on from the revelation that there is actually a reason why I don’t know the correct words to any songs I’ve ever heard.

It was very busy in the waiting room. Looking round for a seat, I noticed that there had clearly been an outbreak of black eyes and stitched noses on the southside of Glasgow over the weekend, so I was delighted to see that the enjoyably low-budget daytime antiques show ‘Real Deal’ was on the telly for a bit of light relief. Moreover, I was in pole position to see the subtitles with the all-important bidding prices, because everyone else had avoided the empty chair beside the wee old man who was singing away to himself to the accompaniment of a loudly whistling hearing aid. I squeezed in beside him, quickly noting how good my high frequency hearing is, and soon became immersed in the on-screen auction action.

When I was called to the audiometry booth over an hour later, I was so pumped up with all the antiques bidding activity that I clicked my way through the test in record time and was back in the waiting room in under five minutes. Then it was time to see Mr Bradford. The right side of my face started twitching uncontrollably the minute my name was called.

“Good news,” said Mr Bradford, probably wondering why I was winking at him. “There has been no significant change, so I suggest we see you again in…ummm…two years.  How does that sound?”

“Great,” I replied, heaving a large internal sigh of relief.

“Thank you and Good Afternoon, Mrs Dancer”, said Mr Bradford, seamlessly whipping out his Dictaphone and gesturing to the door, whilst handing me an official piece of orange paper with my name and a ‘2’ written on it.

I exited the room none the wiser about what to expect in future, but feeling rather lucky to be waving bye-bye to the delights of the ENT clinic until June 2012.

Good old NHS

It was with a heavy heart that I passed through the portals of Clinic O, bearing the sleeping Reflex L. It was curled up like a baby mouse in the tupperware box which has been its home for the last two weeks and it felt rather like taking Sooty the cat to the vet for the last time. I even wondered if the painful boil which had mysteriously appeared overnight in my now vacant left ear canal was some kind of divine retribution.

I took my seat in the waiting area. Hospital radio was on the telly again, but by an amazing coincidence it was doing a Norman Collier broken microphone act. Maybe it’s to make me feel at home, I thought, just as John came out to call me to his office. After one of my customary garbled explanations, he reassured me that contrary to my characteristic self-fulfilling prophecies of doom, my hearing aid days are not yet over as far as he is concerned. Hurrah! In addition, Siemens have offered to send one of their audiologists to work with John and his probably least deaf, but most time-consuming patient. Hurrah! again.

“Let’s try you with this Chroma S, instead” he said cheerfully as he casually beheaded the Reflex L. It squealed lustily in its death throes. Then my latest new best friend was set up. John attempted to get a meaningful assessment of sound quality from me by offering prompts such as “Does it sound tinny? How about hollow?” but once again I was utterly useless with my descriptions.

I couldn’t hear any daleks, though, so his work was done for the time being.

Who needs hearing aids anyway

What's that noise, Hun?

With the long-awaited jaunt to Bute cut short because of the unseasonally atrocious weather, the spouse and I are back in Glasgow rattling around the house and wishing we’d gone to Lanzarote instead. The Siemens’ demise is perfectly timed since there’s nothing to hear other than the tv, the overworked Strathclyde Police helicopter and the spouse, who fortunately is a Type1 Foghorn speaker anyway. In addition, he’s now even helpfully prefacing certain statements with an emphatically loud  “I said…” where a response from me is required, leaving me free to continue nodding absent mindedly to the rest.

Nevertheless, in just over a week’s time I will be back at work and assailed by the lovable, but largely inaudible students to whom I am paid to respond, so I am pushing my luck by requesting a third and final visit to clinic O. The hearing aid is currently unusable so I can either just hand it back now, or see if they’re willing to give it one last try. I don’t think they’ve got any more to play with on the tweaking front because a. I’ve got a relatively mild and untypical type of loss and b. two minor tweaks have already completely removed all functionality. In any case I don’t feel good about wasting any more of their time in the face of a huge NHS waiting list of far more deserving cases.

The plan is to ask if the feedback problem could have been caused by the fact that, due to my recently exposed ignorance of ear anatomy, the bloody thing was practically hanging out of my lug for the first two and a half months. If that’s a possibility, then perhaps the best bet is to restore the original settings and hope for the best…

Let it snow

2 hours before high tide, BBC weather forecast: light snow

For once, the BBC weather forecast is right and, if anything, it has actually underestimated the terrifying forces of nature currently being unleashed in the Firth of Clyde as we enter British Summertime. The MV Argyle hasn’t left Rothesay harbour all day, there is a dusting of snow on the Ayrshire hills and the electricity keeps cutting off. We are marooned on this island and there’s only one Extremely Chocolatey Mini Roll left.

Yesterday, the spouse and I spent his birthday night out in the Victoria Hotel restaurant, watching what looked like really bad special effects outside, of the kind where they throw buckets of water at the window and cars blow off the pier into the sea against a backdrop of straining palm trees. Later, the post-prandial run to the bus shelter to catch the last bus home led to both an apocalyptic drenching and severe regret at polishing off the cheeseboard despite already being full. On the deserted streets, several Rothesay residents blew past us like crash landed parachutists, dragged along by their inside out umbrellas.

The bus home was completely empty apart from us, and for some unknown reason as we set off into the rural darkness and driving sleet, I decided to start an argument about which seats to sit in. For the record, I wanted to naughtily sit in the seats reserved for the elderly and disabled just for the hell of it, whilst the spouse favoured the draughty seat by the emergency exit, for the legroom.

In order to shorten the journey time and take his mind off the woman with the loud voice up the back of his bus, the driver put his foot down and broke into a prolonged full vibrato whistling version of ‘Bye Bye, Blackbird’. At the very first ear-piercing note, a Pavlovian response stopped me dead in my argumentative tracks. I froze like someone in a B-movie who’s been hypnotised to kill at the sound of some subconscious prompt. Realising what whistling can do to his beloved lately, the spouse revelled in his draughty legroom and willed my head to explode, as I glanced to see if it was actually Robin Williams driving the bus. In a split second both of us remembered that the hearing aid was history, thus whistling was now harmless.

The nice driver dropped us off right outside our sea-battered front door, oblivious to his narrow escape and the fact that he owes his life to an unknown audiologist.

Safe in the arms of the NHS part3

Went to see the audiologist this morning about the whistling lughole. It’s the first time I’ve been to the hospital in daylight, so it had an altogether more cheery aspect. The front doors had been fixed since last time and when I reached clinic O, there was even a receptionist. The sun was shining and things were looking up.

The telly was switched to hospital radio, but my wandering attention was soon drawn to the procession of patients arriving with crumpled brown paper bags in their hands. They were ushered in to a room, to emerge exactly five minutes later, smiling and with an additional brown bag. Definitely not a hearing aid fitting then, too much smiling. What was in those bags? Why were they all so happy?

My precise timing of their movements was interrupted by an even more interesting distraction unfolding at the reception desk. A surgeon in scrubs and white wellies was letting off some steam.

“Got in this morning,” he said, “the patient’s there waiting just now, but no notes and no bloody instruments.”

My over-active imagination ran riot. What was the patient supposed to be having done? Was the surgeon still going to do it anyway? The lack of notes wasn’t a problem since they never read them at the best of times, but the instruments could be a little more problematic. I was glad it wasn’t me in a paper gown sitting waiting for him to come back, and I prayed that he wasn’t one of those surgeons you read about who likes to improvise with a mop-head coupled to a cordless drill or something like that. As always at an interesting juncture, my thoughts were interrupted by someone calling my name.

This was the first audiologist I’d seen at the start of a shift rather than the end, so there was no tired and exasperated swivelling on chair and rapid opening and closing of drawers to the exclamation of “where’ve they put the flippin’ no.2 tubes now” as had happened the last time. Terry was new, totally composed and very nice.

“So I’ve got you down for a 5 minute appointment just to see how you’re getting on” he said.

Five minutes…was I going to emerge from his office smiling with a brown bag in my hand, just like the others? More importantly, how was I going to explain myself and be fixed in five minutes? I reckoned I’d better get stuck in. Terry listened very patiently and then made a move to connect me to the computer. I flinched like a beaten dog as he picked up the cable, thinking that I was about to be jabbed in the eardrum by a tired and hungry audiologist again. My fears were unfounded. Once connected up onscreen, there was lots of mouse clicking and Terry rubbed his head at the sight of the graphs. Then came the devastating news that all was exactly as it should be. He made a valiant attempt at problem-solving by thinking out loud as I stared at him intently, willing him to come up with a solution as if in a movie where the tech is trying to fix the onboard computers as a plane is about to crash.

“Mmmm, maybe more occlusion needed…tap tap…no, wait a minute you’re better in the high frequencies…nah, no use…domes…tips…1KHz…hmmm…most people who come in here are a lot older…wait a minute…nah, won’t work…maybe I can…are you in any strong electromagnetic fields…that could be it…mmm…turn off wind cancelling”

“NO, don’t turn off the wind cancelling” I pleaded, “I like walking in the country. I’ve just got the ambient noise back”

“Aye, you’re right, that would be really annoying” said Terry.

A full 30 mins later I emerged from Terry’s clutches having had the volume turned down in the 1KHz area to see if that makes any difference. It does, although I felt that my ungracious initial reaction of “Oh my god, that sounds crap” was a little hasty, so I’m giving it a whirl.

What I need for my next experiment is an 80 foot room in a concrete building, fifty students and a bat-eared colleague. Roll on tomorrow…

What’s that noise?

The hearing aid has continued with its erratic behaviour this week. My new best friend has turned against me. I have tried to identify some environmental constant in what sometimes sends it haywire at work, but to no avail. My newly hatched paranoia over whether anyone else can hear it is now causing me to exhibit a variety of bizarre behavioural tics. In a sensitive staff workshop the other day, a steadily increasing whining noise in the 1 KHz range caused everyone round the table to shoot puzzled glances at each other. My face steadily increased in hotness and redness along with the noise and I prayed for it to stop, but it just kept going. My secret was out, I had to come clean:

“It’s me, okay, IT’S ME. It’s my bloody hearing aid. Yes, HEARING AID. I’m leaving now, I feel a little unwell.”

Just as I was about to make my dramatic confession, my colleague got up and fiddled with the true source of the noise, a video camera which was recording the proceedings, forgotten, from the corner of the room. Boy, was I glad I’d kept my trap shut, it’s rare for there to be a camera running when you’re about to make a complete arse of yourself in public.

I do hope I get a follow-up audiology appointment soon…


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