Monday, August 27, 2001

Silence is a rumor I'm not certain I should believe. As a tinnitus sufferer, I haven't truly experienced silence in over a decade. Tinnitus, which afflicts over twelve million Americans, is a constant ringing in the ears.

We depend on background noises of certain levels and certain frequencies to mask the unrelenting sounds in our heads. In situations where true silence might be achieved, the ringing stands alone, becoming all the more maddening. Pure silence, something cherished and holy to most, has become our worst enemy.

Each person with tinnitus (or "T" for short) has a slightly different experience but, for me, water noises make the best masks. My morning shower is the best part of most days, and the only time I'm completely free of my T. When I'm able to simply sit by the ocean and listen to the waves is the only time I'm able to experience the peace and serenity that quiet brings to others.

There are some people who don an eye mask to block any light when they go to sleep. I use a noise mask. A little white box on my night stand with six synthesized sounds: "Mountain Stream," "Spring Rain," "Ocean Waves," "Summer Night" ...) A timer plays that night's selection for 30 minutes, which is just long enough to lull me to sleep.

I take it on faith that silence does exist, and that it can be a good thing. But it is not something I ever expect to personally experience.

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