By virtue of my birthday, December 14, 1945, I am on the very cutting edge of the so-called baby boomers, and by virtue of that fact, I have been frequently just slightly ahead of the curve when it comes to fads. For example I was drinking Perrier (anybody remember that) well before Time magazine did a cover story on it. The same was true for the coffee craze and later high class ice cream. Also, sadly, I have been on the cutting edge of physical complaints. I had gingivitis long before Time ran a cover story on that. And now I find a lengthy article in the New Yorker on tinnitus–written clearly in partial response to boomers. The article reports that as of now 12% of men and 14% of women over the age of 65 have some form of ringing in the ear.
And when all those baby boomers hit 65 the number of people walking around with some noise in their ears will be enormous. A whole new industry may be developed around trying to figure out what it is and how to get rid of it.
First they really don’t know what it is? Well, they know that–it’s a noise in the ear. But wait. That’s the problem. They don’t know where it is. One person for example had his or her whole ear removed because of cancer and still had tinnitus in that ear even though the ear was gone. So you can’t say it’s noise in the ear. One has to say, it’s a noise. But that would fail to indicate that it’s tinnitus.
No longer will people be able to say dismissively, "Oh, it’s all in your head." Sure, one can say back, that may be the case but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
How the hell I am able to hear something in my ear that isn’t in my ear is a mystery to me. It’s there all right, though. In my left ear and not my right or any other place. Something neurologically is going on.
Thankfully my tinnitus is apparently very mild. One poor fellow has it so bad that his life has been disrupted. He hears it all the time at high volume. One day he went outside during a thunder storm and stood by a flag pole hoping lightening would strike and carry him off. That’s one of the more bizarre attempts at suicide I have heard of.
Also I appear to have stumbled on a cure. I don’t know why I thought of it, but I bought a really cheap white noise machine about the size of a pancake. It sits next to my bed and makes white noises, like the sound of surf or the sound of rain. Unfortunately, the soothing surf sounds are punctuated by the squeaks of sea gulls and the sound of rain sounds more like static on a television. I settled for the water fall sound, which doesn’t sound like a water fall but is nonetheless soothing.
I find that, if the tinnitus really starts to aggravate me, all I have to do is move my hearing from the tinnitus to the white noise and bingo the tinnitus goes away. How I switch my hearing like that, I don’t know. But then I don’t know how I move my eyeballs either.
But that is one of the "cures" now being promoted. White noise. Also they have developed hearing aides that pick up more background sounds, like the sound of a refrigerator, and for some that too works to "block" the tinnitus.
I don’t know why they feature nature sounds on those white noise machines. I think they should make an urban sounds white noise machine that includes, for example, the sound of a refrigerator. I also find the sound of the dishwasher mildly soothing as long as something is not banging about in it.