by Robert Adcox
Nothing will drive a person crazy quite like a chronic ringing in the ears.
Anyone who has suffered from Tinnitus can tell you how awful it can be. The constant ringing in your ears can motivate you to trudge down to the basement in search of that Seals & Crofts eight-track tape your girlfriend returned to you when she broke up with you for not taking her disco roller skating back in ’75. Popping the musty cartridge into that stereo you could never part with will surely serve to deflect attention from the constant “rrrr…” sound which has driven you to desperate measures.
Of course, you could just as easily have slid in a CD and listened to distortion-free music courtesy of the Computer Age. But there’s a reason why you trudge down into subterranean territory which your real estate agent once called “seven-hundred charming square feet of living space”. You locate a pocket knife on top of the tool box, half-buried in a red, oil-soaked old shop rag. Armed with the means to pare the stereo’s speaker wires, you revel in knowing that your agonized otic experiences will soon be treated to “Diamond Girl” while you reminisce about that time you borrowed dad’s new Cordoba to impress your one true love -and promptly tweaked the rear bumper when you backed into the dumpster next to the convenience store.
Ah, wonderful memories.
Disaster strikes as the aged tape, dry rotted from years of sitting in a dessicated Campbell’s Soup carton manufactured during the Ford administration, spews itself all over the intricate inner workings of what is now stone age engineering. With the last notes heard on that tape extinguished for all time, your ringing returns with the vengeance of a preschooler throwing a tantrum. Desperate for relief and mourning the passing of the last vestige of your youth, you trudge all over your home turning on every fan you can, hoping that their noise will prevail.
Sadly, you discover that not only does it not help, but actually serves as a conductor for the ringing now doing victory rolls around your malleus, incus, and stapes. (That’s hammer, anvil, and stirrup to those who missed the film strip.) By now you’ve gone outside in the hopes that an atmospheric difference might do the trick. It doesn’t make any noticeable difference. Fighting to regain your sanity, which is becoming as weak as the ringing is strong, you begin humming in a short, intense, monotonic effort to stop the bumblebee-type sound. You keep hum-humming for all you’re worth.
It works! At first, relief only lasts about a second, but each time you hum, the ringing stays away a little longer than the last time. Determined to stave away the infernal sound, you press on with the confidence of someone who knows that they’re going to prevail over incredible odds. That’s what gives you the self confidence to keep at it as too many folk stroll past you, giving you the “someone help this guy” look normally assigned to people who yell at trees or wear golf shoes to church.
It was worth it, as it turns out. You kept at it until the ringing went away. Although this won’t last long, you nonetheless give thanks and celebrate the moment, complete with a broken old eight track tape and the social alienation of five people who are going to spread the news about that guy who walks around town, hum-humming with his fingers in his ears and alarming passerby who clearly have never been tasked with hum-humming away extraneous ringing.
If you’ve experienced this, please give me a ring.
I’m all ears.