Showing posts with label Hearing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hearing. Show all posts

Monday, 5 November 2018


It has been three weeks and three days since I first discovered I had 'Swimmer's Ear'. This is not to be confused with 'Schwimmer's Ear' and does not mean that your ear becomes like those of Ross from Friends and lead you to go around holding up restaurants.

Schwimmer's Ear is clearly visible in the left hand picture

Usually a bit of water in the ear after swimming dribbles out on its own, but not this time. After advice from friends (not 'Friends') about how to deal with it - everything from dripping warm olive oil, apple cider vinegar, or Otex into my ear twice a day - and nothing working, I went to the doctors on day eleven, who confirmed that although my left ear was not infected it was full of wax, both hard and soft, and that whatever I was putting in my ear was working and I should continue doing it. He advised me to book an appointment with a nurse on 5th Nov in case it didn't clear on its own, and then I'd get it syringed.

Being deaf in one ear, after the amusing novelty wore off, sucked big time. It felt that half my head was continuously under water. That half my awareness was gone. My universe had shrunk by 50%. I felt like an old man. I regretted every time I'd ever made a joke about deafness, or that I'd thought less of my father for his hearing problems. I wished I'd been more patient with him. More forgiving of his distance, which was not his fault.

Once in Japan I heard a story about a poor guy who, while sleeping, had the hugely unfortunate experience of having a cockroach climb in his ear. He woke up and stuck his finger in, injuring the insect, which then got stuck in there, still alive, scratching at his ear drum.

I made a joke about that at the time - not to the unfortunate himself, but still - which I also deeply regret.

The past few days have become psychologically trying. I tried my best not to let the continuing problem get me down and began hesitantly accustoming myself to the idea that I may be deaf in my left ear for the rest of my days. It wouldn't be that bad. People have it much worse off. Pain was beginning to creep in when I yawned or burped. Tinitus had arrived. I thought if it wasn't infected then it must be now. Today couldn't come fast enough.

I'll confess that never having my ear syringed before left me in some trepidation. I wasn't even sure of the process. I assumed, wrongly, that a nurse would insert a large, empty syringe in my ear and pull out the plunger, slowly sucking out the offending wax, bits of broken ear drum and any other segments of important tissue - like brains for instance - in the area. Fortunately this was not the case.

What really happens is this. The nurse has a look in your ear and confirms that yes, your ear has lots of wax in it. Then she gets you to sit near the sink and hold a kind of cup under your lobe next to your jaw. Next she switches on some kind of electric pump mechanism (which is not foot operated) with a hose attached, warns you that this shouldn't hurt but if it does let her know, and begins the hugely satisfying act of gurgling warm water into your ear allowing the waxy mixture to drip out of its own accord.

It wasn't sore at first, but it slowly began to get painful after the second time. It was like rolling, undulating hills of gentle pain. The good sort of pain. The pain that meant you were getting some hard, dry, foreign gunk pressing precariously against your ear drums warmed up, dissolved and removed. But I didn't care. I just wanted it out of there.

Finally she showed me a big dod of brown waxy clay the same size, colour and consistency of a test tube stopper, and I just thought, 'How earth has that been building up over the past decade without my knowledge?'

The second thought was, 'Holy Moses I can hear again.'

Relief and gratitude flooded through me. I didn't hug the nurse, but I should have. I promised there and then that I would never make outdated and unoriginal 'Carry On' references about nurses ever again. Not to the nurse, but inwardly, to myself. 

I walked out amazed at the newly discovered and hyper sensitive hearing I was now receiving through my left side. Every rustle, every scraping hair, every echo off a wall. Immense appreciation of the nurse herself, to the NHS, to the inventor of that wonderful little 'Earcuzzi' gizmo, of all musicians and singer songwriters, of all guitarists and makers of guitars, of all my friends, to the writers of 'Friends', of everyone and everything that makes sound.

On exiting the health centre I got a bit of a fright. 'What the hell is that,' I thought.

It was birdsong and traffic.

When I got home, after a nice dinner where we all had a bit of a family high, I said, "Why is our new fridge suddenly so noisy today?" 

My wife and son looked at me. "What are you talking about? It's always been that bad."