If I’ve said anything random to you lately, I apologise. There’s only a certain number of times you can acceptably say, “Sorry?” or “Pardon?” without being written off as decrepit or deaf. Though I am, it seems, the latter, for weeks and weeks after a cold. It’s not that I can’t hear anything. I can hear lots – myriad creatures inside my ear buzzing and squealing and thundering around like a herd of elephants. I’ve made my peace with them. You have to. I even refer to them affectionately as my inner zoo. Exercise helps the animals sleep and so does wine. But just occasionally they get so noisy that I want to put a bullet in their heads, or in my own. Whichever’s quicker. Thankfully I do not possess a gun.
Anyway, last week I took my ears to a big London hospital to see a woman in a white coat and a man in a suit. The first one shut me in a room with various implements clamped to my head, along with some headphones. Through the headphones they played a series of bleeps, and every time there was a bleep, I had to squeeze this Wii controller thingy to signify I’d heard it. After a while I sort of nodded off. The animals were hungry or something and there was so much screaming and humming and whooshing (the seals perhaps?) that I couldn’t hear anything at all. The lady in white came back in after a while and repeated the instructions. I tried to explain about the zoo but she didn’t seem that interested. She didn’t even smile, which was pretty mean since I think I’ve invented quite a creative coping mechanism. Because of her dead pan face, I became irrationally desperate to impress her. We had one more try during which I worked out that every time there was a bleep in my right ear (this one contains fewer animals), 3 seconds afterwards, there’d be a bleep in the left ear. I was quite proud of my predictive bleeping to be honest. But when I bounced proudly out of the sound room, she just gave me a brown envelope to give to my consultant. And she was wearing her I’m-not-angry-I’m just-disappointed face.
It’s made me think about ears – as you think about any part of your body that isn’t working properly – and how useful they are. One ear works reasonably well but you really do need bi-focal audition (I just invented that term. Good isn’t it?). With one ear, I can’t figure our where sounds are coming from. Since my ears have been dodgy, I’ve – nearly got run over crossing a road, answered questions nobody asked, let a pan of potatoes over-boil, left the gas on, laughed in all the wrong places. And my brain has invented a lot of conversations that I wasn’t actually having. Even with myself.
When the steroid ear-drops start working, and my sinuses have sorted themselves out, I expect I’ll be grateful for those appendages either side of my head. Hopefully for a long time, but more likely for about 10 minutes. We’re fickle like that, aren’t we? Once one thing in our lives get sorted, we soon move on to something else. We always want more.
Note to self – Get up every morning and thank God for a different body part. Particularly those that are still working. Whatever we think about our bodies, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Can I just say, in case you’re wondering, that my ears are actually very small. But it’s surprisingly difficult to take a photo of your own ear with a mobile phone. In case you ever need to, put your face really close to the phone, hover over the button with your finger and turn violently away at the last minute, before clicking. This was my seventh attempt.