I have terrible trouble with my ears. Partly this is due to the gradual failure with age of the neural circuitry which results in hearing loss. But, in addition, for some reason, possibly childhood illnesses and their complications – the infamous “double Mastoid” – the external auditory canals of both of my ears have narrowed considerably. The left hand one is still open and usable, the right hand one, not so. This was noticeably so as far back as the middle of the 1970s when a consultant in Salisbury, where we were living at the time, opined that “if he had his way” he would fit grommets. Quite who was stopping him from having his way I never found out, and when I have mentioned this in ENT Departments in later years they express astonishment and tell me this is or was only ever done for a finite period in the treatment of children – something to do with glue ear if I remember aright.
One upon a time, if one went to the Doctor’s and complained of poor hearing your ears would get inspected, the pouring in of warm olive oil by over worked mothers would be commanded for several days, and frequently for several times each day, and then the nurse at the surgery would produce her big brass syringe and you would get an almighty flush which left your ears feeling exquisitely clean and restored your hearing immediately. Then someone (the ear police ?) stepped in and suddenly syringing was non-PC. Off you went to the local hospital to the ENT Department where an expensive piece of equipment, a glorified vacuum cleaner, would be inserted (often painfully) into your ear canal and the wax sucked out. Sometimes it felt as if not only wax came out but part of one’s ear canal as well, and from time to time one would find a spot or two of blood lurking at the entrance to one’s ear which did not inspire confidence in the procedure.
Some 30 years ago, when living in the southern art of the Lake District we had a local GP who was an ex naval doctor. He had a splendid piece of kit which pumped, via a small jet, warm water into your ear. A very gently pulsating stream over a period of several minutes. The effluent therefrom was caught in a kidney basin and the amount of stuff which came out in that time had to be seen to be believed. Never have I seen a similar piece of kit until we arrived in our present abode, where Lo ! the practice nurses use something similar. Knowing that the “insert oil” instruction would be given I commenced doing this seven or eight days beforehand and then booked a wash out appointment. Yesterday was the big day and our lovely practice nurse peered down her apparatus into my right ear and pronounced “no wax there” which came as a bit of a surprise seeing as that ear is just about closed up. On the left, not so good, and in went the water for only a very short time before the nurse saw results coming out and inspected my ear again. “All clear”, she said and showed me the lump of sludge in her cardboard beaker.
My hearing aid has not been fitting into my ear snugly as it should do for a couple of weeks past which made me suspect that a trip to Mountainhall in Dumfries might be necessary, but since yesterday’s clean out I have not had so much trouble, so I suspect the lump of wax had been preventing the proper entry of the mould on the hearing aid.
A Doctor told me once that many of the health troubles of the third world (I do not say this facetiously) could be prevented by the regular application of soap and water, and yesterday’s treatment kind of bore that out.