Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A World of Silence

For some reason, my excellent hearing aids were beginning to screech at me (and bystanders). So off I went to my local hospital’s audio clinic where they kindly diagnose and rectify trouble.
            I was told that an excess of ear wax was the cause. A nurse told me to use sodium bicarbonate liquid ear drops for five evenings, then a monthly regime of olive oil. I was pleased.
            After a day or two a hint of deafness appeared. On the fourth day I woke in the morning to find that I was almost totally deaf. I had suddenly entered a completely different world, one lacking an essential and vital sense.
            I walked silently to do my normal morning ablutions, realising, as I conducted them, that I was much reliant on sounds in the normal course of events. Was my electric shaver on or off? Did the lavatory actually flush? Were any taps still running that might flood the place? Sound is needed in such matters.
I made breakfast. Had the kettle boiled? Had the toaster worked? Did the key unlock the back door? Had I locked it again?
If Margreet shouted into an ear I might just understand a bit of what was being said – to some mutual amusement. But I could speak normally. Conversation was one-sided.
I chose to walk to the audio department once more, taking the river path where dogs didn’t bark, bicycle bells not work, seagulls flew silently and aeroplanes throttling back to land at Heathrow might well have been engineless gliders.
When I reached the very busy rush-hour roadway, cars and lorries passed by silently, as if all had at last been converted to electric or hydrogen power (this really would be progress). To cross the road was rather frightening without the guidance of sound. I had to look both ways several times.
Back again at the hospital’s audio department, with sign language and pen and paper, the verdict was that I had a conglomeration – or something – of wax that should be extracted as soon as possible. But, as a specialist member staff was unavailable to operate their microsuction machine, I was to take two busses to a walk-in clinic some distance away.
            Without sound communication I was given a map on which the bus numbers were written. So off I went, only to be asked the way, when I, myself, was rather lost in a soundless world.
            Near to my destination at last, but unable to see the walk-in clinic, I showed my rather indistinct map to a passer by who was a foreigner (I felt like one, too). But then a young lady came to my aid, and although I could not understand her instructions, her pointing out directions was enough.
            At the clinic, the nurse and I could see the funny side of the situation, but their de-waxing facility was not to be used on patients like me who took warfarin.
            So, unheard by me, she made an appointment with those at my original audio clinic for a “micro” de–waxing in a few days. No time of the day had been fixed. That information would come by telephone to my home. But as I would be unable to answer it or even be able to listen to the message, was there anyone who could take the call? Margreet could, and did.
            One ear did suddenly come partially to life a day later and we could converse. But this did not last for long.
            I write this on a silent keyboard.
            Having to cope with deafness permanently must be dreadful. Sound, which we take for granted when combined with our other senses in the normal way, would, if deprived of it, diminish one’s enjoyment of life considerably – and other people’s, too.
            Now that I have experienced deafness first hand and in coping with it – even momentarily – has been an enlightening experience. And in doing so, it has been a fascinating challenge – and sometimes a most amusing one. Those of us with this faculty intact should be very grateful for it.