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Listening and Hearing

Richard Bell’s Wild West Yorkshire nature diary,  Tuesday,  8th September 2009

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The Full Wax

Prior to my appointment I’ve been treating my ears with warm olive oil to soften a build-up of earwax. The nurse suggested that I should lie there for fifteen minutes to allow the oil to penetrate and, surprisingly, she told me not to plug my ear with cotton wool afterwards, as she tells me that as it’s so absorbent it draws oil back out of the ear.


The glugs of the oil seeping down into my ear, followed by silence reminds me of a scene change in a movie, where the ambient background noise changes. But with my other ear lying on a towel on the arm of the sofa I start picking up a different perspective on sounds around the house. I realise that sound is reaching me through vibrations travelling through floors and walls and finally through the sofa itself. Footsteps, the washing machine and opening doors are relayed from various points around the house, even the vibration, rather than the sound, of a car coming down the road.

New Ears

With one ear still blocked, I’ve got to return to see the nurse for further gentle treatment with a water jet. I’m glad they don’t use the syringe any more! Already I feel there’s a big difference with a brassy percussive element coming back in the mid-ranges of my hearing. It’s like the difference between being in a room with a thick carpet, soft furnishings and heavy drapes and then coming out into an empty room with bare floors.


Hopefully I’ll be able to improve on the range of natural sounds I can hear and hopefully I’ll also be able to improve on my ability to follow a conversation in a noisy room and pick up the dialogue in films when the actors start to speak in a stage whisper.

weeping willow

I ROUTINELY have my eyes checked out every couple of years but it’s about 15 years since I had my ears tested. I’ve lost my upper registers of hearing so I’ve long found it impossible to hear bats, grasshoppers and certain birdsongs that others find very obvious however, when I spoke to an audiologist recently, I discovered that things have moved on and they can now do a lot to help if you have peripheral hearing problems.

Warming the olive oil.

Weeping willow