My experiences of healthcare in Andover are a little strange, so far. Everything is run by the National Health Service, the same as down in Southampton. However, branches of the NHS are run by different people and they are not very good at talking to each other. Different GP surgeries in the same town will have no record of you. A different department in the very same hospital will have no idea who you are. So, moving to another area entirely has challenges.
We gave them as much information as we could; previous addresses, who our doctors were, medications etc. And still, it seems like not a lot of effort was put into actually procuring our information. Only in the last two days has my new GP surgery acknowledged that I have a repeat prescription. Even though I wrote it down on my registration form, they wrote on the online version of my record “no medication taken.” They also managed to tell the Audiology department at the hospital that I had “lost” my hearing aids, when actually I just needed my tubes changed. This brings me to my main story.
I finally got a referral through to Audiology in Andover. Getting to the hospital is a nightmare, the pavements here are just not built flat and they need redoing with a spirit level. They slope horribly into the road and even my new decent chair has trouble not just rolling me in front of a car.
The way things are done in Andover is just a bit bizarre. The Audiology room, instead of being a standard clinical room with a separate booth for testing, was a booth in its entirety, it looked like a nuclear bunker, had two thick doors, no windows, and two big thresholds to roll over. It was a bit awful in there. The Audiologist woman was also a bit . . . off. And even Will agreed, as he did with that horrible OT woman. This means a lot, because normally when somebody is horrible, Will is all “you probably misunderstood/ you’re reading too much into it/ everything is fine.” So for him to actually think that somebody was being a dick means they are super horrible.
Anyway, this woman insisted on giving me a hearing test again before she would change my tubes or listen to any of my concerns. And I suppose I was willing to sit through yet another one, at first.
This whole room was meant to be soundproof so rather than going anywhere different, she just had me turn my chair around while she put some bone-conduction headphones on me. Bone-conduction headphones vibrate your mastoid bone to send in sound. I didn’t hear the beeps with these, but I undeniably had to press the button at some point because they were vibrating the hell out of the area behind my ear, and I at least sort of heard that. People tend to record higher on audiograms with bone-conduction, because they literally vibrate your damn head.
Then it came time for trying to hear beeps with proper headphones. There was literally nothing coming out of these headphones. They never got loud enough for me to hear. I literally heard Will do a loud fart through the wall of the headphones but I did not hear a beep from inside them. I’m not even sure they actually worked.
I was sat there for what felt like an hour but probably wasn’t, in silence, in a dingy room, my back starting to give in and need to be on the sofa again. I actually started closing my eyes and FALLING ASLEEP because shit-all was happening. Eventually the woman moaned about me not having pressed the button, tried on the headphones and claimed she could hear them beeping, put them back on me, and we sat there for fucking ages again.
Eventually, I pressed the button exactly two times; I’m not sure if I heard a very faint sound, it was just tinnitus, or I started to imagine noise in my desperate boredom.
Then the test was over.
It turned out this woman had not played a single beep above 20dB (my hearing threshold is 70). She wouldn’t go any higher than that, even though you are supposed to, and based on the very few button presses I had given her, she had made an audiogram showing that I have a normal person’s hearing at 20dB. I was in fucking shock.
This woman had decided that I was not deaf. I said I literally did not understand how this could happen, when Southampton had diagnosed me with a severe loss, and there were things I could not damn hear without my hearing aids in.
She said she was going to write to Southampton about it and also blamed previous inability to hear on Auditory Processing Disorder. This is an old diagnosis I have, but it was when sound would get garbled and I wouldn’t understand what people said, I still got sound in the first place.
She said everything with my hearing must be physically fine, that there isn’t an “A to B” problem, referring to sound getting to the cochlea, and even if I were to have a “B to C” hearing problem, nothing can be done for it (I’ll address that in a minute).
She told me I wasn’t deaf and that a hearing person shouldn’t wear hearing aids because they actually will damage their hearing in the long run. I fucking CRIED. I called her every available swearword in my head, but couldn’t do it out loud in case I blubbered more.
She said “I’m not going to take your hearing aids away this time,” but that she will have another appointment with me, and then she finally changed my fucking tubes. Which was literally all I went there for.
I waited until I got outside the hospital before putting my aids in for the first time since moving, because she made me feel illicit doing it. Suddenly, I heard birdsong and the footsteps of a man walking a few metres away from us. Things that I had forgotten made sounds.
How the fuck does that work, then? If it’s processing based, why the fuck would my brain say “oh, I feel an earpiece in your ear, so I will suddenly acknowledge birds and footsteps.” That’s not how it fucking works. I cannot hear those sounds without aids.
I cried even more on the way home, in public, with people walking past us. Going through Anton Lakes, I could suddenly hear what sounded like thousands and thousands of birds all singing at once, although the only one I actually spotted was a robin on a low branch.
I just got more overwhelmed and blubbery here. My world is devoid of beautiful background sound without artificial help, and this woman all but called me an imposter.
Going around the house with aids on, I’ve identified new things I couldn’t hear before. For example, the fridge constantly emits an annoying high-pitched whine. Apparently Will has been aware of it the whole time. There’s also some sort of strange rumbling sound in the lounge, but it doesn’t appear to come from any of our appliances.
Regarding the earlier thing she said about there not being any fixes for “B to C” hearing loss; this is so incorrect that it’s astounding, immediately bone-anchored hearing aids came to mind, but I didn’t want to argue when I was already crying.
There are implants specifically for when the problem is based in the nerves that are meant to transmit between the cochlea and your brain:
If this was the sort of problem I was having, the Vestibulocochlear nerve would be the culprit, and it’s very close to the Vagus nerve, which I already have diagnosed problems with. I have problems with all my nerves to one degree or another though, I have Dysautonomia.
So yes, not only are there solutions for hearing loss that is nerve-based, but even people who just have APD instead of deafness find hearing aids beneficial, she was really out of line with what she said.
Fast-forward to Thursday, and I FINALLY have my first GP appointment here. Bear in mind we moved in November, and it’s now February. We couldn’t find anyone to watch Freya, so Will made the decision to bring her with us, and wait outside with her while I went in alone.
I have not seen a doctor alone for about 7 years! So I was pretty terrified. But somehow I managed to be a big grown-up lady. I held onto my gloves for dear life because if I dropped them on the floor I would not have been brave enough to ask someone to come and get them for me.
The GP I saw wasn’t my named GP, but the only one I could get an appointment with. He spoke very fast and basically wanted me out the door as soon as possible. He kept saying stuff like “Do you need help getting our the door” at the end of my sentences, and I was like actually I would like to keep discussing medical issues matey.
At least I can finally get my prescription from an Andover pharmacy and not send Will back to Southampton on the train. I asked about allergy testing RE: the fact I could wear a bracelet for a year and then it suddenly gave me pustules, and he said no to that, but decided that I have a nickel allergy, even though I didn’t actually tell him what the bracelet was made of, and there’s no proof it has any nickel in it anyway. And it also doesn’t explain why I could wear it for a year first.
I didn’t even bother touching on the fact that my collarbone still hurts even though it’s now February, or that I’m worried about neuropathy in my arm, because he really didn’t seem to want me in the room.
In summary, healthcare in Andover is both worrying and bizarre. Let’s hope I don’t need A&E any time soon.
On an unrelated note, I love this very much.
The best ice cream.
I forget why I took this photo originally, might have been something to do with the colour combination of the top and the dress.
I can’t believe it’s been more than a year since we signed our declarations.
I replaced my broken string lights with some purple berry lights!