My Friend, Tinnitus

I’d like to introduce you all to one of my faithful friends, Tinnitus, or “Tinny” as I like to call him these days. Tinny has been at my side (right, that is) for about 40 years now.

In more recent times, Tinny’s been expanding both his venue and his sonic repertoire – he now visits my left side often (while maintaining his vigilant guard of the right), and serenades me with both classical and modern musical compositions, overlaid on the steady “test tone” he’s provided for me all these years.

Tinny’s repertoire these days isn’t limited to simple tones and music either. One of his favorite ways to entertain me on the left side is by challenging me to guess whether I’m hearing:

a) A refrigerator
b) A fan/ventilation system
c) A somewhat distant tractor
d) Muffled voices in another room
e) All of the above at once

Tinny is not generally an early riser, like I am, so usually I have to wait a few hours after waking until he starts his floor show. This I don’t mind, since I know I can count on an entertaining day with my friend, and it’s always fun trying to guess what “style” he’ll use today. Of course, I can always stir Tinny from his slumber by exposing us to loud environments like a bus ride or a bowling alley. Then, being the good friend he is, he’ll put extra effort (and volume) into doing his job well. He can also be roused by having an ENT poke around in my ear(s). Who wouldn’t wake up if someone was rattling and banging in your bedroom?

One of the most interesting things about Tinny is that he accepts (musical) requests (when he’s playing music). Sometimes, I must admit, I find his compositions rather droll – some of his favorites are endlessly repeating two, three, or five tone sequences. I’ve found that when I’ve had quite enough of a certain ditty, Tinny will take the hint, and accept my suggestions – with a little prodding. Fortunately for me, I have a vivid musical imagination, so I can “play” the melody in my head and Tinny will soon get the idea and start following along. It takes a little encouragement sometimes, but once he gets it, he’ll be happy to play the song unbidden for many minutes, and sometimes even for hours.

Needless to say, it’s not always chocolate and roses. Life with a professional noisemaker can be trying at times, particularly when I’d like to sleep, and as mentioned, Tinny keeps somewhat different hours than me. If he’s feeling musical in the late evening, that doesn’t really bother me much, as I’m musically inclined anyway – and I can often have my choice, as mentioned above.

However, if Tinny is feeling more “noisy” and less musical, and decides to try the guessing game (a-e above), sleeping can become a challenge. Good drugs (all legal, don’t worry) are essential at these times.

Last night Tinny was on his mark with the noises, and while waiting for my 1-2-3-sleep combo to take effect, I’m ashamed to admit that I actually said this prayer:

Dear God, please give me nothing! I’ll take totally deaf – I’ll deal with it, whatever I have to do! Just give me some silent peace!

Well I don’t know if God takes these sorts of prayers seriously, but I suppose I’ll find out eventually. Meanwhile, it’s me and Tinny, working out how to live together in “harmony”.

Thanks for listening.


0 thoughts on “My Friend, Tinnitus

  1. I loved this post! How creative and witty! I had a good laugh.
    I completely understand your experience. For me, it’s crickets, chirps, and bees, computers clicking, or the drone of an airplane! Isn’t Tinny imaginative? He visits many of us.

    I’m not sure about the suggestion from the comment above. Niacin actually causes ringing in the ears. My husband takes it regularly for his heart and will complain of tinnitus after each use. However, I do know that when I had just become deaf, I was taken to the House Clinic in LA where they administered Niacin treatments for the very purpose the commenter above suggested, to get rid of the ringing. But it did not. It made my face flushed and caused more ringing. I live with tinitus daily. Niacin remains a puzzle to me.

    But like you, I enjoy being creative about what I’m “hearing” with Tinny. When you can turn something this annoying around on it’s head and give it a different, more positive spin, life is much more fun!

    Again, great post!

    ~ LaRonda

  2. LifeWrecked….I can so relate to this. I have tinnitus roaring all day long and when I’m not feeling too great, the symphony sounds as if its sitting ontop of my head…..

  3. LaRonda–I’ve taken Niacin before and got the red body rash. My best friend is a nurse practitioner, and she says that’s a fairly common reaction to Niacin. You have to take it with something else, but I can’t remember what now. Anyway– I didn’t find that it helped my tinnitus at all. Mine isn’t as severe as LifeWrecks, so I simply live with it. I find that drugs and alcohol can exascerbate it, so I live a “clean” life. 🙂

  4. I know this is odd, but I actually kind of LIKE my tinnitus. I’ve had it so long that it is now simply what “silence” sounds like to me, and it’s rather comfortable. Of course, every once in awhile, it comes up with a truly strange new sound that makes me wonder what’s going on for a bit! Mostly, I feel lucky not to be bothered by it.

  5. Oh, yeah, I can related to this! I’ve suffered from tinnitus ever since I started losing my hearing at age 20. Sometimes it’s a loud roar, other times the sound is soft. I even was awakened by “someone speaking into my deaf ear” about 15 years ago.

    I don’t take anything to try and calm my tinnitus. Like Melissa, I’ve grown accustomed to the noise and just deal with it as it happens. It’s become sort of a friend, part of my identity within myself. Luckily, my tinnitus doesn’t happen very often, these days!

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