Ring, Ring, Go Away!

First of all, I’d like to apologize for the gap in my writing and publishing. The last piece pertained to my daughter, Brianna, getting married. Right around that same time, just over three months ago, I regained employment. I work an evening shift at a call center. I have two days a week off but they are not consecutive. This makes it a lot harder to budget my free time. In addition, I am getting ready to start a new venture with a longtime friend. I’ll keep you posted on that as it develops.

It was pointed out to me today that at least one person in the blogosphere enjoys reading my posts almost as much as I enjoy writing them. What’s even better is that I didn’t have to pay for that kind of endorsement. The true point is that I have missed writing. It offers me a chance to exercise my warped sense of humor while also allowing me to get things off my chest (be it good or bad). It is with that in mind; that I share the following.

I’m not really sure when it started. I know it has been at least a year. Like many stubborn adults, I ignored it for quite a while. Over time, it would get worse and harder to ignore (especially at night).

I suppose I should explain what “it” is. It is a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is when one has a persistent ringing sound in one or both of their ears. In my case, it is my right ear. To be specific, it is known as subjective tinnitus. That means that I am the only one that can hear the persistent sound.

How do I describe the sound? Well, first of all, I should clarify that the type of sound can vary from one tinnitus sufferer to another. In my case, it is a very high pitched and high frequency tone. For the audiophiles, I would estimate that the pitch is somewhere around 3 KHz. Imagine the ringing sound you would get if you stood close to an exploding firecracker or attended a loud music show. The difference is, with most people, that ringing sound is temporary. It goes away after some time passes for the ears to adjust to normal volumes. For me (and many others), the sound never goes away, it’s ALWAYS there.

When the ringing started getting worse for me, I would start to obsess over what may have caused it. After all, in the past 15 years, I have listened to a lot of loud music, worked the runway at an airport, had a brief (but mild) stroke, and suffered a nasty fall which resulted in a badly fractured ankle. Anyone of those things could have lead to the tinnitus. Then again, it may be none of those things. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. I HAVE IT! It’s there ALL…THE …TIME.

Speaking of the end of the day, that is usually when I have the greatest struggle. I come home from work. I go upstairs to my room and watch some TV. Eventually, I am in my room. My wife is asleep. The TV is off. The room is completely silent except for…IT. The tinnitus is there and the ambient silence makes the tinnitus seem (no pun intended) deafening. Covering my ear with my hand or my pillow does nothing to resolve it.

So having seen an audiologist today, the question ultimately became: How do I treat this from here? Well, first of all, presently I am not looking at a need for a hearing aid. The biggest tool at my disposal is a technique called masking. Masking is the use of ambient sound that can drown out the frequency of the ringing. A running fan can be great but it is also getting to that time of the year in Western New York when a fan is less welcome. The ambient sound can be anything from ocean waves to a rain storm to certain types of music. I use music and audio tracks nearly  every night. This is especially helpful if the audio track is very familiar to me as I can partially (again pardon the pun) tune it out while still effectively masking the tinnitus.

I will follow up with the audiologist in six months as well as keeping my primary care doctor up to date with the issue. I shared this all with you for three primary reasons (some of which I have already stated). First, I was inspired and reminded by a friend that I needed to write again as there are readers who get something out of it. Thank you, Dorothy. You know who you are. Secondly, it gets back to catharsis and mentally processing what is going on with me. Thirdly, I know I am not alone with this. It would be very easy for me to cite a musician who has been subjected to an “occupational hazard”. However, there are folks with everyday lives that deal with tinnitus every day. If this piece helps them to identify what they experience or helps them to explain it to others, I would be truly blessed.

Thank you for indulging me on this piece. I promise I will write more in the future on whatever subject leads me in the moment.