That Ringing in Your Ears is the Music of Your Mind

We have a horrible new neighbor living above us, and she’s young and preppy and VERY LOUD!  She bangs things on her wood floor/our ceiling all day and all night long.  She walks heavy on her heels back and forth and back again.  She drags her furniture across her wood floor/our ceiling that creates fingernails-on-chalkboard by osmosis.

I have taken to using earplugs when she’s at her most obnoxious and the earplugs do seem to filter out the precise range of her banging on our heads to make her terrorism from above us sort of tolerable.  I’ll leave the whole injustice of, “Why should I have to wear earplugs all day long so I can’t hear you being obnoxious?” question for another day.

The most alarming thing I’ve noticed about wearing earplugs during the day, while trying to hold down the notion of still living an ordinary workaday life, is the ringing in my ears — likely an early form of radio-induced tinnitus from the foci-ful days of my youth — is a humming constant most pronounced in my left ear.  I like to think the hum I feel is the everlasting reverberation in the earth from the Big Bang that brought us all together.

I actually find some comfort in drowning out the noise of the world with earplugs, and the ringing in my ears focuses me and directs me inward — something not always advised, but always welcomed — and when I read a fascinating recent article in the NYTimes about a woman who hears music in her head, I was stopped:

The study was based on a simple idea. Sometimes people with musical hallucinations say that hearing real music can quiet the imaginary tunes. Researchers had already found that they could use a similar method to mask tinnitus, in which people have a nagging ringing in the ears.

“The idea came to us, why not try masking music hallucination?” said Sukhbinder Kumar, a staff scientist at Newcastle University and one of the study’s co-authors.

Ah!  That article explained a lot.  I began to realize part of the reason I always like to have music on — or a fan running on high, or the television playing, or the radio blasting — may not be just because I enjoy multi-tasking, but rather because all that environmental noise is a crude attempt at masking the rising ringing in my ears.

Fight an internal ringing with external auditory stimulation — listening beyond the tinnitus — made a lot of sense in the same way I have worked hard to train myself to “look beyond” the floaters in my eyes.

I’m lucky I am able to ignore my floaters by refusing to see them and I am also fortunate I was innately, if unaware, of finding ways to mask the ringing in my ears.

There are a lot of people who literally cannot get out of their own heads.  They are frustrated and stumped by the eye floaters.  They are confounded by the constant ringing in their ears.

My answer in reply is to relax and train your mind — and eye and ear — to only perceive what you choose to be important.  See beyond.  Re-focus your foci.  You’ll feel better fast if you can control those internal burdens.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to un-hear the booming overhead noise of an unruly tenant above you — mainly because the noise is unpredictable and random in volume — but, as my beautiful wife tells me, I need to find a way to absorb the unpredictability of the banging, or I’ll allow myself to go mad against a tide of inconsideration I did not create and cannot control.

4 comments

  • Noisy neighbors – especially above you can be most unpleasant – I very much like this idea of retraining your ear – will have to share with the tinnitus sufferers I know.

    Floaters however I can only get rid of by half an hour in a very dark room (SIGH)

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    • Yes, the tinnitus workaround has merits. You focus on the outside source and bypass the direct sound ringing in your ears. It’s easy enough to do with the right amount of outside stimulation.

      I recently saw my eye MD, and she told me floaters are common, and nagging, but they really do little harm. Flashers, on the other hand, are something serious that always need to be addressed and examined. I’m lucky my flashers have quieted down a lot over the years, as have my floaters.

      She also said that floaters are not worth “curing” by breaking them up with a laser or, in the most extreme measure, draining and then replacing all the vitreous liquid in the eye. The “break ups” actually create many tiny, smaller, floaters — because there’s no where for the floaters to go in a closed system — and so you have a “thousand bees” floating around you eye instead.

      As for vitreous replacement surgery, she said, “No responsible MD would ever do a floaters procedure like that on a healthy eye.”

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      • My floaters are usually the precursor to a migraine headache – hence the dark room treatment. Luckily I have only ever got them once when driving – had to curl up on the back seat under an anorak for a while to “divert” them.

        Luckily I do not get them very often and I know the signs well – however some friends are not so lucky and have quite serious bouts of migraine lasting a couple of days or more.

        it is good to hear about the surgeries – I never even knew they existed !

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        • That’s sort of neat how your flashers alert you to an incoming migraine! I’ve been lucky, I don’t think I’ve ever had a migraine in my life. One of my good grad school friends would get migraines whenever a bright line was shone directly in her eyes — the fact that she was a stage actress made her life really painful!

          My Floaters and Flashers article became rife with people posting comments and links to surgery places along with sworn testimonies that replacing all their eye fluid solved the problem! I don’t think many of those comments made it to publication.

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