"It was like a light switch being flicked on. I could focus on work because I could hear better and my confidence levels improved. And, importantly, my family could talk to me again - it was so good to hear their conversations."
Exhaustion and embarrassment are the two words, which Charles uses to sum up his life living with runny ears.
The 64-year-old from Glasgow, suffered a discharge which he says “literally poured down the side of my face”.
For three years, he had to visit ear care nurses every fortnight to have his ears cleaned and drained, and was “rattling with antibiotic pills”. Wearing his hearing aids was out of the question and so he had to rely on lip-reading – a skill he had learnt since struggling to hear as a child. The infection affected his balance greatly and he could no longer do jobs around the house such as pruning trees or climbing a ladder to fix shelves. His skin around his ears became sore from lying on damp patches and he had to throw away pillows regularly.
His hearing loss also changed the dynamics within the family as Charles was left out of conversations. “I had to shout at him all the time,” said his wife Eileen, “and Neil (their 34-year-old son) and I ended up just having conversations with each other.”
But the biggest challenge came at work where Charles was a health and safety officer for Scottish special needs charity Key Community Supports.
“I felt so insecure and embarrassed as I thought the first thing people looked at when they saw me was my runny ears. I had to have my phone labelled with big stickers to prevent other people using it.
“As my job required me to stay in hotels all over Scotland, I had to face reporting to reception that my ears had leaked overnight, badly marking the pillows - despite me having used pillow protectors (which I always carried) and sleeping with my head on a towel.”
As well as embarrassment, the combination of lip-reading and the runny ears meant Charles was permanently exhausted. He remembers going on holiday during those dark days and uncharacteristically slept until lunchtime each day because he was so exhausted.
Help came when the results of an in-depth allergy test to investigate the cause of the runny ears were sent to an audiologist at The New Victoria Hospital in Glasgow. The audiologist realised there was nothing more that could be done to stop the discharge, and recommended Charles was fitted with a Bone-anchored hearing aid.
He had his first Baha fitted on his left ear under general anaesthetic in 2012 and immediately noticed a difference in his confidence levels when he went back to work as he wasn’t so reliant on lip-reading and his runny ears began to dry up. Three years later, he had his right ear fitted with a Baha under local anaesthetic and Eileen says “he is now back to his jovial self”.
With the runny ears gone, Charles can finally get a decent night sleep and join in family conversations.
“It was like a light switch being flicked on. I could focus on work because I could hear better and my confidence levels improved. And, importantly, my family could talk to me again - it was so good to hear their conversations.”
Having been upgraded to the latest Baha hearing technology in June this year – the Baha 5 Power - Charles can barely contain his excitement. “My original Bahas were fantastic, but these new ones have a high quality of sound. I can hear questions from the back of a room and have conversations with background music on - it’s no problem. It is like having your analogue phone replaced with the iPhone.”
The information on this website is for educational purposes, and is not intended to replace medical advice. Please consult a hearing healthcare professional to diagnose or treat a hearing or health problem.