As much as I would love to, I can’t enjoy the silence. I don’t know what it sounds like. I’ve never heard it, and I likely never will. Why?
I suffer from tinnitus. Now, I’m extremely grateful that mine is not as loud as some. Usually it doesn’t interfere with my sleep or my ability to experience the world around me–it’s masked by a majority of the sounds I hear on a daily basis. It’s more of a nuisance than anything.
However, it’s certainly one annoying nuisance.
I first realized it probably about a year and a half ago. I was lying in bed and reading a book, and it talked about the characters sitting in the silence. I put my book on my chest and closed my eyes. “Yeah, the silence is nice,” I whispered to myself, “except for all that background noise.”
That was the start.
As time went on, I realized that this “background noise” didn’t come from anywhere outside me. I did some research and found out about tinnitus. At first I thought that I was just being paranoid, but as more time passed and the sound stayed, I began to realize that it was very real. I was diagnosed with tinnitus a few months ago.
Everyone’s tinnitus is different; for some it’s a ringing, others it’s a buzzing, and still more have a whistle. Mine’s a lot like static; very constant and very much like buzzing.
A majority of people are bound to experience tinnitus in their life at one point or another. Being in a loud environment such as a rock concert will make your ears ring for a few days. But some people have it all their lives. Mine goes 24/7, never stopping, never letting up, never giving me a break.
There are ways to keep it under control. Staying away from coffee and energy drinks, for example, as well as avoiding stress–all of which will make it worse. Some things will inevitably make it louder; for example, after I exercise, the sound is a lot louder than normal, and that’s when it tends to interfere with my ability to hear things around me–things outside my head. (Still, I’m certainly not using this as an excuse not to exercise. I’m just stating a fact.)
Also, staying away from loud environments in general. When I step away from a loud party to a quiet deck–or anywhere outside and away from people, basically–the ringing tends to be really loud for a few minutes. My ears are still adjusting, I guess.
Unfortunately, this probably means I’ll never get to see a Skillet concert. That makes me pretty sad. Or I can just ignore the fact that I won’t be able to hear for a few days and go see my favorite band play anyway . . .
Whatever. I’ve had tinnitus all my life–it’s most likely caused by my allergies. I didn’t even know I had it until a year ago. I’m so used to it; in fact, I don’t know what life is like without it. For me, tinnitus is my silence. It’s the closest I’ll ever get, anyway. But am I upset by that? No, not really. It’s my lot in life. Nothing to gripe about; just something to deal with.
My single regret is that when I write about silence in my books, I’ll never truly know what it is my characters are experiencing.