Yesterday morning, one of my colleagues at work was talking about how hard it must be to suffer from tinnitus... which is essentially the perception of sound within the ear, when there is no audible external sound...
She had woken the previous night to a noise that she could hear, but her husband couldn’t... After a half-asleep conversation and a bit of a panic, she discovered the noise was actually the sound of a vehicle reversing... I think the youth of today would say “LOL”...
Obviously she was relieved that it was nothing more than a “senior moment”, but she was quite surprised when I revealed I actually do have permanent tinnutus due to a viral infection that essentially left me deaf in my right ear.
It happened in 1996... totally out of the blue... one minute I was sat working (a surprise in itself some might say...), the next there was a high pitched squealing in my ear... that turned into a sort of roaring sound and the next thing I knew, I couldn’t hear a thing out of my right ear and standing (let alone walking) was very difficult due to a really violent attack of vertigo.
The bosses at where I was working at the time were very understanding and allowed me to find my way to the bus stop on my own (even though I couldn’t walk in a straight line) and although the symptoms of vertigo soon cleared with antibiotics, the deafness didn’t... even though my GP insisted it would... or maybe I just misheard her... eight separate times...
Anyway, an MRI brain scan ruled out a tumour (and that was a massive relief) and a range of other tests confirmed severe damage to the cochlea (the swirly thing in the picture that helps transform motion into electrical impulses for brain processing... apparently) and basically my hearing loss was permanent as was the hissing sound that I had... and still get... twenty four hours a day.
I would describe the sound as similar to an old stereo speaker with the volume turned up but no record playing... In truth, you become accustomed to it and the majority of people wouldn’t even realise I had a hearing problem... in fact, it can occasionally be a bonus... if I ask you specifically to sit on my right, you will now understand why...
The fact is that I have always thought I was lucky... if I had to lose the use of one of anything I physically have two of, I would have settled for an ear... but what has prompted me to write about this is the terribly sad (and totally unexpected) news of the death of a lady I knew through work and had met on several occasions.
What was diagnosed as a middle ear infection seemingly turned out to be meningitis and I heard yesterday that she had passed away. I am not going to mention her by name because it wouldn’t be appropriate to do so, but as I sit and “listen” to the buzzing in my right ear, my thoughts and sympathies are with those who are grieving the loss of a loved one...
All my own work... almost.