Last night as I was attempting to fall asleep I had an epiphany of sorts. I figured out what it is that makes it difficult to fall asleep and why quiet rooms are really annoying to me. It’s really rather silly that it took me so long to have this epiphany. I guess it goes to show how much the mind can dismiss even the most annoying of things as normal.
You see, I have tinnitus, meaning a ringing in my ear(s). Most people have experienced this a few times in their lifetime, usually after exposure to really loud sounds or music. Some lucky few like myself experience it much more frequently or even continuously. I notice it when it’s quiet, but it’s pretty much always there. Noise that varies in pitch and tone, music or talking, gives me something else to focus on and it recedes to such a low volume that I don’t realize it’s there. More often than not something like reading, writing, or some other endeavor that requires my attention will also distract me from the sound though it isn’t guaranteed. It’s loudest at night when there’s little noise beyond the humming of the fan and maybe the heater or a/c if one is on. Even though I’m used to the sound, it’s still really annoying and does keep me from falling asleep easily. It also may be an explanation for why I have trouble focusing or hearing things in an environment where lots of people are talking. My brain is so used to disregarding noises that are constant, which the hum of talking easily turns into, and the ringing will get really loud in such an environment.
Have I mentioned that I feel really silly for not experiencing this “epiphany” earlier?
Most people who experience it will hear it in one ear or the other, though for people like me who hear it constantly it is more common to be stuck with it in stereo. The chronic version tends to be caused by a head injury, medication side effects or significant damage to the ear drums from frequent exposure to loud and pounding sounds for an extended time. I don’t recall when I started to hear it, so it’s possible to could have been caused either by medication, a frequent culprit being antibiotics, or in high-school from winter drumline, or my time in the army when we were firing weapons, frequently without hearing protection. I’ve had a concussion once or twice, but nothing truly serious (if you can consider a blow to the head “not serious”.)
I’m really not sure what I can do with any of this information. There aren’t many things that can be done for tinnitus. Ear plugs make it worse. White noise is almost as bad as ear plugs. If I fall asleep to music I have a more difficult time waking up to any typical alarm. That’s without considering the fact that it would drive my husband crazy. Ah well. At least I like music for its own sake rather than the added benefit of making this silly ringing a little less annoying.