Author's note: this is a true (and current) story.
On the grand scale of health issues, ear wax is hardly top of the list. Why, it barely even makes the list!
Neither is this the first time my husband has suffered from the affliction. The gunge has an annoying habit of accumulating, necessitating a periodical wash-out every two years or so.
And he's been aware that a wash-out is pending. Over recent months he's noticed himself becoming partly deaf to his own voice when preaching. But, being male, he's been putting off the irksome deed.
So, why now? Why, oh why, does he have to pick the moment when we 're settling into the rhythm of a family holiday in a secluded spot on a beautiful lake shore to decide that his ear wax has assumed the proportion of a flashing lights emergency? The lake shore – that's the nub. He goes swimming. He's not a regular swimmer but the beauty of the setting, the tranquillity of the water, and the evident enjoyment of the rest of the family conspire to lure him in. And he clambers out deaf. Not just-a-wee-bit-and-it-clears-after-half-an-hour deaf. But truly and unquestionably deaf. And no amount of head-tilting or pinna-pulling or poking the corner of the towel into his ears can shift it.
I guess I should be grateful. Some men might consider this their dream holiday – have the wife and kids around but not be able to hear them! But my husband starts begging to get his ears syringed. And soon!
Now I should explain that we've lived in out-of-the-way locations before with no nurse on hand to relieve his ear canals of their resident gunk. In addition to friend, cook and lover, I have previously assumed the role of ear-dewaxer. The trouble is that in packing the first aid kit I didn't include a syringe. Now tell me, am I the only wife on the planet who prepares for holiday without thinking, “Better include a large syringe just in case my beloved needs his ears cleaning out while we're away”?
So he starts softening up the wax with warm cooking oil, and I sit snug in the knowledge that the deed will have to wait until we get home.
Wrong! The next day we're chatting to a local guy and my better half mentions his discomfort.
“Hey! I have a syringe! Living out here with no medical facilities you have to be self-sufficient. My wife always does my ears.”
So he brings out his syringe, a pre-war glass model manufactured in the good old US of A. I wonder briefly if it's his ears his wife de-gloops with this monster instrument, or their pet elephant's. But we take said article to our holiday cottage and get to work.
Even now I'm wondering, what on earth am I doing? The wax is so hard I could stick wicks in it and have instant home-made candles. (Perhaps next time!) But a husband in distress is a peculiarly persuasive animal, so I keep going. Suck up 50ml of tepid water, squirt. Another 50ml, squirt, another 50ml... Only the squirt is more of a puuuuush! Hey! My midwife would be proud!
Half an eternity later the wax starts to yield. Yellow-brown misshapen hunks of crud come swishing out of his ears and I breathe a sigh of relief. Job's done? I should be so lucky!
“OK, leave it there for now. I'll put some more oil in and you can have another go later.”...
And a third go the following day...
Finally – “That's better! I can hear you now. Thanks!”
But over the next few days we discover why nurses refuse to syringe hard ear wax.
“My ears are a bit sore.”
“Sorry love. Maybe a bit bruised from the syringing. Take some paracetamol.”...
“I can't sleep. My ears hurt. I'll get up and read for a while.”
“Oh dear. I hope they're better tomorrow”...
“Do you have any idea why my ears might be weeping?”
Weeping?! Let me think. I blindly push litres of water into his ears with the force of a labouring rhinoceros. Then he spends a day swimming, not in a chlorine-treated pool, but in a lake with all the floaters imaginable and more besides. And now his ears hurt and are weeping.
“Um, maybe I've managed to burst your ear drums darling, and there's an infection brewing. Oops!”
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