Unnerving

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Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

I don’t think I’ve experienced a silent moment, ever.

Every morning I awaken to a barrage of a million tiny pinpricks of fuzzy noise filling my ears. And so the daily task of getting that under control begins. The focus becomes, oddly enough, the fine art of distraction.

This audio companion has impaired me for as long as I can remember. Going back to my early childhood, I recall laying in bed at night when everything around me was still, and all I could hear was this buzzing. It just felt like it was a part of me until the day I thought I was going crazy. No one else seems to have this happening to them! I remember calling my best friend, and she laughed. “You’re not crazy, it’s tinnitus!”  What a relief, I had a name for it. It was just a part of me. I went about the business of accepting it.

It’s not been easy but who said life would be. Nor is it fair. Right?

Coping, distracting, even just listening to it acceptingly – these became my tools to handle what was naturally my physical state.

People think I’m weird for playing my music in the car thunderously loud. They can hear me coming from a mile away. It’s a coping mechanism, in part. To be truthful though, the other reason is that good music just naturally sounds better in the higher decibel range. Am I right?

So on the days when it’s too hard to mentally distract, I turn it up. It helps drown out the daily invasion of uncomfortable and unwanted sound. I’ve been told that repeated exposure to loud noises can make it worse. Uh huh, like I haven’t had it worse already.

This torment can be harder to cope with when I’m only surrounded by my four walls. You know, the place where I spend most of my time. Writing kinda requires it. But I’m also a person who likes to keep to herself – Read: I want to be alone! This means I must concentrate fiercely on my work or my surroundings in order not to notice what’s going on between my ears. Background noise can help ease the burden of staying on top of it, but it’s exhausting.

Every external sound I hear layers on top of this foundation of annoying buzzing, dampening it slightly. As music, noise, or voices pile on, the less the static invades my being. The more I don’t notice it, the better I’ve distanced myself from this maddening disability.

Forty-plus years after understanding what I was dealing with, the tools still work, but it’s getting harder. It’s disquieting. No pun intended.

And there is no cure.

I’ll just have to deal with it, some more.

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