I have to admit I was in a much worse state than I thought I’d be. Always unflappable – at least that’s what I try to tell myself in the small hours – I thought that having my ears tested and cleared would be a doddle.
When the time came, however, my former confidence turned to proverbial jelly. It wasn’t the audiologist, who was friendly and professional throughout, nor was it the receptionist, who was delightful – no, it was my sudden realization that I was about to have medical instruments put inside my ears that turned my stern expression into more of a, well… that of a deer in the headlights.
‘You’re a bit too worried, aren’t you?’ the receptionist smiled. I smiled back, weakly, as if about to go through a lobotomy. ‘Just a little, yeah’, I lied. ‘Well…’ she breathed, noticing my complexion turn paler by the second, ‘I wouldn’t. They do this dozens of times a day. You’ll be absolutely fine!’ she said, a reassuring flash of teeth opened into a grin. I tried to exhale in response but could manage only a splutter.
As it turns out, my fears were far from well-founded. From the entrance to the exit, I probably spent around only 30 minutes at the Hinckley clinic. The first five felt the longest, but in retrospect that was probably because of my own impending sense of doom. The mind is a funny thing, is it not? The way it can make the harmless seem like inevitable disaster, a minute into an hour.
My audiologist, Roger, was chatty and laidback and put me immediately at ease. He explained in detail what he was going to do beforehand, then carried out his task with speed and precision. The first thing I was to undergo was a video otoscopy.
This involved the placing of a small thin tube with a camera on the end down each ear, which, it has to be said, causes an uncanny but not unpleasant sensation. Immediately after the process, which took around a minute, Roger then turned to me with his iPhone, which was plugged into the otoscope the entire time. On it, he showed me the inner workings of my ear (not particularly lovely to look at, but then, whose are?) and put in plain words what each part was, what was looking good – and what wasn’t.
Turns out I was rather more blocked up than I’d hoped for. I muttered something inaudible under my breath, but Roger was quick to temper my concerns, ‘don’t worry about it! I think we’ll do a microsuction’ he said, before going on to explain, ‘it’s a bit like a mini hoover. We place it in your ear, and it’ll suck the wax right out – good job you were using softeners beforehand!’
I was advised to lean right back into the leather chair, head rested back and facing straight forward. It would’ve been very comfortable and relaxing had I not been so nervous! Next, Roger suggested that I stay perfectly still for a minute – and it really was a minute, the entire process was over so quickly I barely had time to think – while he used a device called a ‘speculum’ to hold my ears open.
So, the moment of truth had arrived. Roger started up the suction machine (which made a surprising amount of noise for such a delicate-looking piece of kit) and got to work. Almost immediately I could feel the relief as the pressure from my head faded away. Bit by bit, second by second, it felt as though an entire weight was gradually being lifted.
After roughly a minute or so, a final satisfying swoosh and it was job done. I felt strangely light-headed, as if I’d been carrying a millstone round my neck for months and at last someone had had the good graces to remove it. My ears did experience a slightly uncomfortable itchy sensation shortly thereafter, but Roger reassured me that it was entirely normal: after all, I’d be carrying quite a lot of excess wax for a while, and now my ear canals were smooth and clean. Top tip – don’t put cotton buds down your ears! My impaction could’ve been significantly avoided had I not been so enthusiastic with them.
I was dusted off a little, cleaned up, given a warm smile and was then good to go. All in all I’d say it was a pleasant experience from start to finish, my own worries notwithstanding. My audiologist was professional and thorough but more importantly for me, he was calm, relaxed and gave me the confidence I otherwise lacked.
Overall, I couldn’t recommend it more highly!