The bells of silence

It’s been a while since I wrote here for (again) work and family-related reasons. For starters, like most Mets fans I got caught up in the division-drive with its ebbs and flows and occasional near-cardiac-arrest-inducing turns. It wouldn’t be the Mets without some sort of chance of snatching defeat¬†from the jaws of victory.

It was, in fact, during the last week of mind-numbing play that lead to the clinching game against the Reds that I started to notice a turn for the worse…in my health. My daughter Erina had had a fever approaching 40C (104-105F), and I had a lost at least a couple nights of sleep, running over to her room as she woke up every two hours or so. Fortunately, she recovered, but proceeded to pass whatever bug she had on to me. I endured — what else could I do, really? — and last Friday morning, woke up just in time to watch the final pitch from Familia that sealed the deal.

Problem was, I could barely hear the crowd.

At first, the local ear-nose-throat specialist thought it was just a minor cold. He prescribed a round of antibiotics and other medicine and sent me home. I had to work all day Saturday interviewing prospective teachers for my university, and as the day progressed my left ear started hurting more and more.

The following Monday, I went back. No redness, no ear infection. I got some ear exams.

Tinnitus. One of the last things you want a doctor to say to you is, “You have sudden deafness. This may be permanent.”

The constant ringing kept me up all night that first night. I was nearly in tears by 3 a.m. I had no idea how to make the sound go away, and despite the silence of the household all I could hear was the high-pitched whine of the over-excited cilia in my cochlea. The silence was deafening, and it was all in my head, with no way to stop it, or even describe it.

A couple days ago, I wrote briefly about this on my Facebook page, and received a virtual encyclopaedia of information from friends and family who have been suffering from this for up to decades. Varying degrees of ringing, varying causes, varying suggested relief efforts…and no way to make the noise go away for any of them. The sheer volume of personal stories both staggered and humbled me.

My doctor is positive that the noise will diminish, especially if whatever virus is still there can be eliminated (or at least contained) and if I can ever figure out how to lower my stress level…which I have never, ever managed to do, ever since I was self-aware of myself as an individual human being (I’m what you call easily-stressed out by life in general…I always have taken things far too seriously for my own good).

Some of my friends are convinced this is a sort of comeuppance (or at least a semi-logical, “there you have it” result) of my love of hard rock and metal music (I don’t buy it; Ayumi Hamasaki, among many other pop stars, didn’t lose her hearing from heavy metal). Some just think it’s due to age (I’m only 43;¬†not that that means I *shouldn’t* have had this, but…). Most seem to think it’s some combination of age, sickness, stress, and lack of sleep.

Whatever the cause, it’s something I’ll have to learn to deal with for the rest of my life…just like the other one in five adults who up to now I never considered might be dealing with this. Humbling? Certainly. Life-changing? Perhaps.

Inspiring? We shall see.

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