I'm out in the street, so it's a wonder that I heard my name being called at all. But there's a lull in the traffic and I'm away from the main pedestrian hubs.
The urgency in the tone alerts me to the fact that this probably isn't the first time that she's called me. There's psychological pressure on me to find her fast. I don't want to appear impolite.
Single-sided deafness means that I have no direction of sound, but I do have eyes. I quickly scan the road ahead of me to no avail. Then I turn around, looking until I spot the source. It's my friend and she's waving from the doorstep of her house. "Finally, you deaf cow! Come and have a cuppa. I've got news!"
I wander across the road, taking care to look for traffic. I can hear vehicles, but have no way of knowing if they're approaching or moving away. The only way to gauge their distance is to see them.
Once through the front door, I'm engulfed in a cacophony of noise. There's no depth to it, just a flat wall of sound seeming all to derive from my left side. (I'm deaf in my right ear.) The television is on. A soap opera blares out a constant stream of words, which clash and merge with those spoken by the other two people in the room.
My friend has possibly said something. I don't know. She's gestured towards the settee and that subconscious bit of body language has provided me with a clue. I'm being invited to sit down, while she disappears into the kitchen. This is a British home. She will be making a cup of tea to demonstrate how welcome I am in her home.
I feel disorientated, because it's hard to think with that white noise distracting me. My instinct is to switch the television off and yell at everyone to shut up. But etiquette demands the opposite reaction.
I'm to be on red alert. I'm to watch every person present, in case their attention or moving lips indicates that they have spoken. Unfortunately, that focus often prompts people into conversation. I'm now lip-reading and watching their non-verbal communication.
All the time, the noise feels like something physical to be warded away. It comes and goes. Just one source of sound is fine. I can hear it. As soon as there are two, it's like I've been slapped. The television and conversation over the top is the most common situation in which I have to suffer this.
Her husband has a beard and mustache. I cannot see his lips moving, though his gaze and the laughter of his teenage son tell me that I'm ignoring him. I feel like a stuck record, repeating this every time I'm here, but out it comes again, "I'm sorry. I'm deaf in one ear. What did you say?"
Whatever the response was, it must have been funny. It was probably a light-hearted joke about deafness. People are full of those. It breaks the tension, which so many seem to feel at the prospect of silence. He reaches forward for the remote control and I catch his broad smile. He wants to be helpful. He switches on the subtitles, so I can watch the television too.
And the noise goes on. Too much of it and I feel silently dizzy. I'm getting a headache from having to concentrate so hard. I start sentences with an apology, because I missed the thread of the conversation. It's not just the volume. It's not just the sound. It's the sheer scale of it all, like an assault, when they're all trying to be so welcoming.