A little information about Tinnitus. The definition from Merriam Webster Dictionary is: "a sensation of noise (as a ringing or roaring) that is caused by a bodily condition (as a disturbance of the auditory nerve or wax in the ear) and typically is of the subjective form which can only be heard by the one affected"
So, it turns out I have a major ear infection, have been running a fever likely for the last 4 or 5 days. Thursday morning at work, as I was trying to get the Kids CD stuff together, I started to hear a massive roaring whine. I'd liken it to having your face duct taped to a tornado siren. The sound levels in my head were so great that it felt like my eyes were vibrating and I started having vertigo. I was walking around, and trying to figure out if I was walking straight or not. I could not tell. I did this for 4 hours until it was obvious it wouldn't let up. I started to feel like I was walking on a hilly treadmill and everytime I sat down the world was spinning clockwise.
Now, I'll add here that I suffer tinnitus all the time. At any given moment of the day in my life (ever since I was 5 years old) my ears what made some manner of noise. Funny how that is.. I really have no idea what "silence" is. I understand the concept: the absence of noise, but I cannot experience it. I've adapted to it.
Tinnitus is my background music. It's like my life is a movie and a band follows me around all the time with different theme music. I have my own theme music for whatever mood I'm in... with the music usually cribbed from some movie I've seen in the past. Like when I'm thinking about the future, I hear Luke Skywalker's theme in my ears. So tiiExcept for the last 2 (going on 3) days, my ears have roared like nothing else. In any case, ringing in my ears is usually "nothing really".
I admit: the intensity of the tinnitus for the last few days has been scaring me. I'm able to keep the "volume" down by taking off my hearing aids and hearing nothing at all except normal tinnitus activity. With them off about 2 hours, the howling goes away and the vertigo effect would lessen and I could walk around almost normally. I've spent most of the last 36 hours with my hearing aids off except for having them on at the Doctor's office and on the drive home from my parents house. I'll admit this is the longest I've gone without hearing aids in a very long time. I'm experiencing a state of "true deaf", and quite frankly, it scares me. I'm thinking to myself "So this is what it will be like" because I still (usually in the back of my head, like a tiny whisper, but the last few days it's been much more prominent) am afraid that one day I'll wake up and not be able to hear anything.
If I lost my hearing, could I keep my job? Could I keep my sanity? Could I keep my friends? Could I learn sign language? Could I be happy? Would my life end?
I stopped at my parents house. My Dad is taking my Mazda in for an oil change. So I have his truck (96 Ford F-150 4x4) for the evening. They didn't want me to drive it without wearing my hearing aids. So, my parents, who've lived with a mostly deaf child for 37 years, freaked out at the idea of letting said mostly deaf child drive 10 miles without his hearing aids on. When I lose my hearing, I suppose I can assume the whole world will treat me differently. Am I ready for that? Is it even POSSIBLE to be ready for that?
This nagging fear has always been there. For some reason, I have this very clear, very concrete memory of a doctor stating "Chances are, he'll be completely deaf by the time he's 40". Well... that's 2 years and 8 months from now.
From the Department of Redundantly Redundant Titles...
Okay, so I took a vacation to Gettysburg with my Dad earlier this month. It was great. Click for Pics! I didn't expect to basically enjoy being on a Civil War battlefield but I did. I was struck by the oddity of it. The land is so beautiful there.... but thousands of people died there. Is the land above the death that human hands have wrought? Was it just a natural occurance? With so many having died there, shouldn't there be essentially a scar left on the Earth? Instead, I sat on a stump just above Devil's Den for almost an hour, talking with my Dad about what could have happened there. Rebel sharpshooters trying to pick off Union troops on Little Round Top 500 yards away with ball and musket... how incredibly good they had to have been with such crappy technology to manage that. How horrible it must have been... the smell of gunpowder, blood, and screams. But it was still an incredibly gorgeous place... and the history is humbling. I want to see Antietam and Manassas now.
I'm also reminded during the trip of an oddity in life... how there are some people who I just never really have trouble understanding their voices. My Dad and I didn't really go at it like chatterboxes or something, but my Dad's voice is like a touchstone voice for me. I know what he's saying almost all the time. Even with a full beard (ex: it's hard to lipread people with full beards). Of course, my Mom and Dad's voices were the ones I heard as a baby. The voices I grew up with. I've been hearing my Dad's voice for 37 years. And it's not just voice. It's body language, shared history... it makes communication easy for me.
I use this to segue into a simple discussion of friends. I have quite a few people I would consider to be friends, but truth be told, I know little about them. It's hard for me to make friends now as an adult. When I was a kid, you could just run up to a group of kids, challenge them to a football or baseball game... and you'd make friends. Let's ride bikes, let's shoot some hoops, how far can you hit a ball... nowadays, that doesn't do it. How do I tell these people that I consider them friends, even if I don't know much about them? I learn things about my friends in very small pieces now. Example: I had lunch today with the Tech Comm group. A bunch of people I would consider to be my friends, like Andrew, Eric, Derek, Ben, Donna, Melanie, Anne... It was in a fairly nice bar (Hamlin Pub), but the noise level was such that I couldn't make out their voices with any consistency. I could sit there, eat my hamburger and fries, and watch their body language... watch them laugh and smile, and know we we having fun... but not know WHY. The largest piece of conversation I was able to hear was between myself and Eric. I learned Eric drives a LONG way to work and had a Doctor appointment later in the day.
Heck, I've known some of these guys for over 10 years or nor (Andrew and Donna), but I still don't know their voices in the same way I know my Dad's voice, or my Mom's or Brother's voices... do they know I consider them to be friends? Do they understand that I'd like to be able to talk to them, the way everyone does around that lunch table? I just... can't hear over all the TV sets and music and all the other people talking? Does my sister in law know that I'd like to be able to carry on an actual conversation with her once so I can learn who my brother fell in love with?
To be perfectly literal... it's not easy for me to communicate, and I just wonder if the people I know realize this, and accept it. I'm sure they do on some points, but its often an odd feeling... sitting around with friends, feeling accepted at that table, but hating the fact that I can't join in the conversation.
Just random thoughts I have...