"It's charming and informative." Ellis' interest in how those with disabilities navigate their world took root during a study-abroad program in South Africa more than a decade ago.
'He told me it was probably some kind of congestion or blockage,' Alan says.
It made me feel very isolated and I gradually became quieter and more withdrawn.' Alan, who separated from his wife in 1999 and has two daughters from that marriage - Jade, 22, and Rebecca, 17, was living alone at the time in Clanfield, a village near Portsmouth.
He says: 'Visiting my daughters was a problem as they live in houses with parquet flooring or bare floorboards, which amplify noises.
'He seemed confident it would get better - but it never did.
There didn't seem to be anything else I could do other than wait, so I just put up with it.' But, as Alan found out, it wasn't easy. I struggled to catch what people were saying and the hissing in my left ear was a constant distraction.