First of all, can I ask everyone to please stop emailing me about how to pronounce “tinnitus.” If I say “tin EYE tus” all the professionals howl in protest, but if I say “TINN i tus” no one except the professionals knows what I’m talking about. I’m not afraid of mispronouncing tinnitus; I’m just afraid of getting it. Again.
I found myself with a sudden case of tinnitus last year. Since I swim a mile before work each day, I figured I’d probably gotten some water in my ear. But shaking my head to clear it didn’t help. That night, I went to sleep on my left side, figuring whatever water was in the ear would drip out in the night.
In the middle of the night, I awoke, annoyed, to hear my wife vacuuming in the next room. Annoyance gave way to an icy feeling in my gut when I realized Ellen was actually sound asleep and the vacuum cleaner noise was in my left ear. It was loud. It was constant.
I spent the next day quietly freaking out. I don’t believe I told anyone at work, though I did tell Ellen, who might disagree with the “quietly” part of that sentence. We had done a Soundcheck segment a few years ago on tinnitus and I knew that it often came on suddenly (check), sounded worse in the middle of the night (check), and disappeared just as mysteriously (name your price, universe, just give me back my hearing). But by the end of the day I still had the whine of a vacuum cleaner in my left ear and I found myself wondering what would happen if this didn’t clear up. This would affect my ability to do my job, and I genuinely feared for my sanity if I had to live with this noise. I needed to find a doctor, and fast.
The next morning, though, the noise was definitely better. And the day after, it was hardly noticeable. And then it was gone. I have no idea what happened, or why it went away. But the experience left me with a deep sympathy for everyone who suffers from tinnitus – however you pronounce it.
Have you had, or do you have, tinnitus? Leave a comment.