(Warning, if you are grossed out easily you might want to skip this!)

Yesterday my semi-annual bout of ear-blockage decided to return in the middle of the Australian winter. Having gone to task with a few Q-Tips and not faring well, I figured the best thing I could do is at least see how much it would cost to get a professional look at it. I’d not really had it looked at much before and I was under the impression that my hearing was good enough, but maybe slightly ravaged from listening to too much dance music on my walkman, cd player, mp3 player and phone. Not to mention the many weekends spent in loud clubs!

If you’re not put off just yet, good. I’m not going to get too graphic but essentially my ear drums in both ears were sort of caked long term with very dark wax which the specialist advised me could have been there for ten years or more! The thing is, the ear canal itself was in pretty good shape and I could hear reasonably well for the most part – the problem is as soon as those vibrations hit my ear drum, they are absorbed by the wax first and I get whatever’s left over…

Creative Commons Licensed Image (http://www.flickr.com/people/texese/)

Creative Commons Licensed Image http://www.flickr.com/people/texese/

Now before you say it, my ears have always looked wonderful from the outside! However, on further investigation it seems that this type of thing happens to around 30% of the population. It’s exacerbated moreso if you have hairs growing in your ear canal and wonderfully enough I have those too.

The removal process has changed over the years. The worst idea is to use cotton buds; this pushes more wax down the ear canal and onto the ear drum – and ear candling is dangerous and not effective at all. After that you can use olive oil to soften the wax, or a number of specialist products like Audiclean which have a home applicable jet you can use to gently clear your ears out from mild wax issues. Incidentally, I had used Audiclean in the past but I didn’t find it too effective, simply because I guess my ears were too far gone.

So – professional removal did used to involve pressured water but this has been supplanted by a combination of precision digging and suction. The water method can sometimes build up too much pressure and remove some naturally occurring oils in the ears which would probably spoil the equilibrium in there (I’m guessing). So, having had a nice chat about my silly first name and yes I’m on a working holiday visa I had a plastic funnel thing pushed gently into my ear and the kind lady went to work.

Her work was certainly cut out for her – there wasn’t a huge amount there but it was very dark, and very stubborn to remove. It took a number of attempts on one ear and I’ve rescheduled to have the other one done next Friday after a course of Olive Oil drops. The process involved using the suction thing for the most part which was like piercing white noise being blasted directly into your brain. At the same time, it has to grab onto wax which may be caked onto your eardrum which is incredibly fragile! The process for me was mildly discomforting with occasional spikes of shooting pain. The process only takes a few minutes though.

So why mention all this? I’ve basically been listening to music in the equivalent of VHS quality for the last ten years. For the moment, I have one ear working in Full HD! It wasn’t apparent until I left the clinic and walked out side, I heard a ruffling sound; turns out it was my arm rubbing against my coat as I walked – I can’t remember the last time I heard so much precision in my hearing! As I was walking home, mildly traumatised from the poking and prodding, all the detail of the world rushed at me and it felt pretty emotional to be honest! I thought of all the times I’ve said “sorry what?” in so many situations – and how music didn’t feel as good as it did when I was younger.

Creative Commons Licensed http://www.flickr.com/photos/altemark/

Creative Commons Licensed Image http://www.flickr.com/photos/altemark/

Upon returning home I put on some music, and despite being VHS left ear and Full HD right ear I was blown away – I’m going to spend quite a lot of time rediscovering my music collection again soon – and I absolutely recommend anyone who has even a slight concern about their hearing to at least get your GP to have a look – don’t leave it for over ten years!