PLEASE forgive me if you pass me in the street and I fail to acknowledge either your cheery greeting or torrent of abuse.

I am not ignoring you – I just can’t hear you.

For yet again, I have lost 50 per cent of my already feeble aural abilities courtesy of one of my equine friends from the top of the Rede Valley.

The other day, I was mucking out my 21st horse of the morning when the friendly creature nuzzled the side of my face, and succeeded in dislodging one of my hearing aids.

To make matters worse, it wasn’t the one from my Bad Ear – it was the one from my Very Bad Ear.

The device described a perfect parabola in the air before heading for the middle of my wheelbarrow, a vast affair approximately the size of a 1961 Austin Mini which was ready brimming with muck, urine-soaked straw and other debris.

With a wail of despair, I tried to pluck it out of the air, but only succeeded in sending it off on a whole new trajectory to a noisome black hole in the barrow.

I tried to work out where abouts it had landed but my eyes are not much better than my ears when it comes to precision.

I spent the next 30 minutes conducting a finger-tip search of the foetid contents of the barrow, squeezing, separating and retching all at the same time, but a needle in a haystack has nothing on a tiny hearing aid amongst several hundredweight of steaming equine effluent.

All the time, the offending horse was snickering – or was that sniggering? – away, and giving me none-too-gentle nudges to inquire whether I might have such a thing as a Polo mint about my person.

I was painfully aware that a replacement hearing aid would set me back £50, as the original device had met a similar fate in the same stables last year, so I toiled manfully on.

I had got about two thirds of the way through the barrow, when I began to ask myself whether I could bring myself to wear a hearing device contaminated with equine effluvia even if I found it.

I would not have been able to clean it properly, as water and other cleaning materials would doubtless have interfered with its delicate electronic innards and on reinsertion, any stray faecal matter I had failed to finagle out with a pin would be sure to have entered my inner ear and driven me even more insane than usual.

So, with some reluctance, I gave up the search and resigned myself to many days of the sound of silence until such time I as I can renew my standing order to the audio department of the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Trust.

I find there is little sympathy in the world for those of us who are aurally challenged; they should try it from our end of the spectrum!

Chief among my detractors is Mrs Hextol, who will say: “Do you think you can turn the telly up a bit as they can’t quite hear it on top of Dunterley Fell?” or “That’s three times I’ve told you your tea’s ready and you are still ignoring me!”

However, Mrs Hextol has more senses than anyone I have ever come across.

She can hear the rustle of a stealthily slit Kit-Kat wrapper from two rooms away.

Another talent is that she possesses the unique ability to detect the soft plop of a dab of marmalade sliding off a piece of toast even before it hits the living room carpet.

Her sense of smell is superior to the dog’s by some margin, particularly when an hour’s soak in the bath and liberal applications of foo-foo from every bottle and jar of aromatic potions, creams and liquids from the dressing table have failed to subdue the horsey miasma which floats around me for much of the time.

I come downstairs thinking I smell like Liberace’s handkerchief, but with a delicate shudder she will declare: “You still smell like Shergar – and he’s been dead for nearly 40 years.”

Her only weak spot is her eyesight, which affects her ability to read the likes of the menu in a bar or restaurant.

She is a regular purchaser of those absurdly cheap off-the peg reading glasses which she refuses to throw away even when both side pieces have fallen off.

Rather than admit defeat, she just balances them on the end of her nose!