It’s ‘E-sharp’ above high ‘C’ and I’ve heard it for years. The condition is called tinnitus–a ringing or noise in the ears. In my case, it’s just one ear, the left one. I discovered the note while listening to a program about tinnitus on NPR, and they played several notes to show what the noise was like. Suddenly the car was filled with a noise inside and outside my head, and I recognized the note as the one that plays on 24 hours a day, every day, in my head.
Knowing that I’m not alone is not all that comforting. Musicians like Barbra Streisand, Bono, Pete Townsend, Prince, Jeff Beck, Sting, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and Peter Frampton all suffer from tinnitus; in their case most likely due to years of exposure to loud music.
Sadly, I’m not musical, so it’s not that. It could be age, or too many concerts when I was younger. I can’t stand loud noises anymore. But far worse, is that I no longer experience silence. And having grown up as a reader and without TV, I love and miss silence.
People have been driven to suicide by tinnitus. It’s exhausting and exasperating. Some time ago I noticed that when I used the double headphone while talking on my iPhone, the tinnitus was not as obvious. Then a friend mentioned Steve Roach, a composer of ambient music.
Ambient music turned out to be my salvation. It’s a type of electronic music that becomes background music. It’s gentle and soft and weaves in and out of your consciousness. It doesn’t have words or an insistent beat, so you can easily live with it. For some reason, it will keep the noise in my head busy or distracted. It’s not that it goes away, but I am not aware of it as much with ambient music. I purchased and downloaded some on my iPhone and bought a CD to play in the studio. It has provided me with the first good night’s sleep in years.
Odd as it sounds, ambient music is as close to silence as I can enjoy, and enjoy it is the right word.
–Image: Cover of Steve Roach’s Dream Circle CD, from Steve’s website.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach who has had tinnitus for about 8 years. See her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) 2008 All rights reserved.