“So where is the audiology department, Ma?” I ask, turning the car into the hospital driveway. Answer comes there none so I try again – at volume. “Where am I going, Ma?” By now I’m shouting. “Where’s audiology?” Still no reponse. I seem to have slipped into an episode of Fawlty Towers. I start to laugh and Ma frowns.
“What’s funny? Why are you laughing?”
And, of course, she is absolutely right to get peeved. We don’t laugh at Pa when he enlarges the font on his Kindle because of his ropey eyesight. No-one mocks GrannieBorders at her failure to do the Highland Fling from her wheelchair. So why is it that someone struggling to hear becomes a source of humour?
I was mulling this over on my weekly trek to see how I’m doing on the drugs trial. I’m now convinced, by the way, that I’ve landed a placebo as I’ve noticed no effects whatsoever, for good or ill. Mind you, when I went up on Christmas Eve, I waited with three gentlemen who are also on the trial, clutching their gold, frankincense and copy of the Metro, and it turned out that none of us have noticed any effects. Presumably, we can’t all be on placebos?
I digress. Anyway, this week as well as the usual blood tests, Dr LaMancha did extra neurological checks which included a questionnaire. One section lists a number of symptoms and you have to say whether they affect you: ranging from all the time to never. I find this section rather disconcerting. Not because I have much to report – at the moment I’m lucky enough to have my difficulties pretty well controlled by the medication, and long may that last. But the pick-and-mix list of symptoms does paint a rather depressing picture of how the condition might progress, as presumably they wouldn’t ask about problems that no-one has. “Do you find yourself levitating?” “Only occasionally”.
What’s more, thinking about the deafness issue, I couldn’t help noticing how many questions were about how people react to your condition. Are you reluctant to tell people, Dr LaMancha asked? Do you find that friends, relatives, colleagues are supportive? Are you anxious or embarrassed to go out in public? Do you avoid speaking in public? Do you avoid eating in public?
It did make me wonder whether my Parkinson’s – being, like deafness, a condition generally associated with the old – is also going to become at some stage a source of humour. I just have to hope that it’ll be me making the jokes.