I attended the hearing clinic this morning as planned. When Tigger and I arrived at the hospital there few people about. I asked a man in uniform for the hearing clinic and he said he didn’t think it was open on Saturday. I told him I had a definite appointment and he advised me to try the 4th floor.
On the 4th floor, we found a locked door with a hand-written notice on it, saying that, for security reasons, this door was kept locked and that we should sit and wait until our appointment time when someone would come and fetch us. We were well ahead of time so went back downstairs to one of the cafes.
We returned and sat on the two chairs provided. Through the small glass panels in the locked door, I saw that the lights were now on in the corridor beyond it, which gave me hope that there was actually someone there. Sure enough, after a few moments, a doctor came and opened the door. He was polite and cheerful and told Tigger she was welcome to join us.
He started by asking me some questions about my hearing and general medical history. Then he used a device to examine my middle ear. The instrument was stuffed in my ear and first caused some pressure than some negative pressure. It wasn’t painful though having things stuck in your ear is never pleasant.
After this I was given a standard hearing test. I have had these before so knew what to expect. I was shut up in a booth, a button on a wire was put in my hand and I was told to press it whenever I heard a sound. The test was in two parts. In the first part, earphones were placed over both ears. Through them I heard electronic sounds at various pitches and volumes. I duly pressed the button whenever I heard one. Silences suggested to me that there were sounds I wasn’t hearing.
For the second part of the test, a clamp was put on my head and what I took to be the business end was placed behind my left ear. I again had to press the button whenever I heard sounds.
The doctor showed me the graphs from the tests. The middle ear was fine; there was no problem with the eardrum or bones. The graph from the sound tests showed that my reaction to lower frequency sounds fell within the normal range but my sensitivity to higher frequencies was considerably reduced. It seems that the nerves are no longer responding as when new. This was much as I had expected.
The proposal was to provide me with two of the new digital hearing aids. The doctor showed me one and as I am always intrigued by gadgets I was interested in it. Would I like a pair? I said I thought so.
The next thing was to take casts of my ears. First, small foam pads are inserted into the ear to protect the eardrum and, I imagine, to help remove the cast. The pad has a thread attached to it which the doctor tidied away by wrapping it around my ear. Next putty was squished into my ear cavity. Not being able to hear makes me anxious and I knew I was not going to enjoy this. Fortunately, I am very brave and as Tigger was there to wave at me, I submitted like a hero.
The putty takes about 10 minutes to solidify, during which time you are advised not to chew or do anything that might affect the ear cavity as this could distort the shape of the cast. I made sure to give my nose a good blow before we started. (You possibly didn’t want to know that.)
For 10 minutes I was more or less deaf. I could see that Tigger and the doctor were chatting and that she was making him laugh but I couldn’t hear any of that, much less join in. Instead I rolled my head around and listened to the sounds made by the muscles and sinews. I should have brought a sudoku with me.
After 10 minutes, the doctor came and pulled out the putty casts. I could hear again and felt better. I was told it will take up to a couple of months before the hearing aids are ready but as I have waited this long, a little longer doesn’t matter.
He told me that hearing aids are not like reading specs to be put on as needed and taken off again but should be worn all day, every day, except when I go to bed or take a bath. I suppose I will soon get used to them and hearing the world again in glorious Dolby will make it worthwhile.
We hear a lot of bad things about the NHS and, to be honest, some of it is justified, such as the conditions in the hospital where Tigger’s fathers was being kept that were so bad that we felt they were contributing to his poor mental health rather than making him better. But time and time again, as today, I have been treated superbly well by dedicated people who are skilled in their work and caring in their attitude. I would not hesitate to qualify today’s care as excellent. This is without considering that the aids are to be supplied free of charge.
I am not sure how I will take to hearing aids. I am a bit nervous about it, to be honest. I am also worried that when I take them out at night, the loss of sensitivity will cause the anxiety I mentioned. I will probably get used to them, though, and come to wonder what all the fuss was about. If I no longer have to ask Tigger to repeat everything she says, that will be a bonus.