After I had got in the habit of turning the sub-titles on during TV dramas as a matter of course, I realised suddenly that it might not be the Geordie, Liverpool or New York accents to blame after all. I might have a hearing problem instead.
So I went to the opticians – which is where you go nowadays if you have a hearing problem. Doctors do very little. They are too busy.
The hearing expert at the opticians had a good look and said she couldn’t do a hearing test because there was too much wax in my ears. I needed to get them syringed by a nurse at my local surgery. So I rang the local surgery, and it turned out that they didn’t do that either. They said I should go to my opticians.
Odd, Holmes. This could be a tricky one. I rang the opticians back, and they said they didn’t do it (yet), but they knew a man who did. His name was Nick, and he didn’t have a surname or an address. Just a mobile number.
I know what you’re thinking. Bit risky. I didn’t want just anyone poking about in my ears. But what was the alternative? I took a deep breath and rang Nick, who sounded reassuring. He was a nurse specialising in ears, and he did have an address. Admittedly it wasn’t in the smartest part of town, but that might be a good thing, cost-wise.
The opticians and the surgery had told me to put olive oil in my ears for a couple of weeks, but Nick said this was a bad idea. I could get the job done straight away. It wasn’t a syringe; it was more of a vacuuming. He had the latest equipment.
A trifle hesitantly, I made an appointment, walked to the address and after a while, I found it. It was through an arch which looked as if it led nowhere, but in fact it led to a rather modern-looking glass door, behind which was a reception area. The idea, apparently, was to press a button, and the receptionist would let you in.
Unfortunately there was no receptionist.
Eventually a woman came up behind me, pressed a combination of numbers, and the door opened. I tailgated her. She didn’t seem to mind. I asked her about the ear man, but she had no idea: she was there because her son was having a music lesson. I scanned the reception area, but could find no indication of where anything was.
So I followed the woman upstairs. I am good at that sort of thing. We met a couple of guys in business suits, but they looked mystified when I mentioned ears. I tried various floors and then bumped into someone who looked as if he might have been a caretaker, though he probably wasn’t. He knew about the Ear Clinic. This was a reassuring phrase that I had not heard before. He directed me to it, and to cut a long story short, behind a door marked Ear Clinic (handwritten) I found Nick.
Nick was brilliant. He was calm, professional, explained everything and answered my questions. He then had me lie down while he vacuumed my ears. He warned me about the noise, but in fact it was quite a pleasant sensation. It cost £50.
I went back to the opticians, where I saw a different hearing expert. She reassured me that there was no wax now, and gave me a hearing test. It turned out I was marginal, though good at cognition. She gave me a hearing aid to take on a test run with my wife, but while I could hear the background noise more clearly, and my own voice much more clearly, it made little difference to my wife’s voice.
It would have cost a minimum of £500; so I decided to pass, and take another test next year.
I am quite happy about that, because I know where Nick is now, and sub-titles are not so bad.