Holding It All Together-Do You Hear What I Hear?

So, I was lying there in bed the other night and was awakened by the roaring sound of an all-out Whoo-ville Jubilation parade.  Ever seen the movie The Grinch That Stole Christmas featuring Jim Carrey?  The opening scene of the streets of Whoo-ville is exactly what I was hearing .  Horns, and trumpets, and bassoons, and horse-like animals clomping down the road, strings plunking, pie plates spinning on sticks, wheels whirling, rushing and bustling, and thumping!  I sat straight up in bed and thought, “What in the world is going on here?!”

But the room was all dark except for the soft glow of John’s alarm clock, which he had covered politely with a handkerchief before we turned in, because it glows too brightly for my taste.  The noise, though.  Then as I came to my senses and realized fully where I was, I figured out each  noise.  The clomping animals were the two wall clocks in the room ticking a half-second apart, the wheels whirling was the fan across the room, the bumping was an earbud swinging against my night stand, and horns of all kinds was a combination of my snoring and teems of John’s coiled nose-hairs, furling and unfurling in triumphant orchestrated blasts of release.

As if my brain needs help to be creative, darkness has a way of playing tricks on the mind.  Also, if you take into account that I deal with tinnitus every day of my life, you might understand how I hear things differently than most people.  The noises I hear shift from a high pitched test pattern noise, a waterfall, to a swarm of angry locusts.  I have had this noise in my ears constantly for a few years now.  It can be so annoying at times.  It is especially bothersome at night or when I am alone in a quiet room.  The sound just seems to roar when there is little background noise to drown it out.

A friend of mine who also suffers with tinnitus told me once that he has become “friends” with his affliction.  He said  that sometimes it reminds him of being “back home,” and he can hear the quiet hush of a stream and the murmur of peaceful summer crickets.  I really like his outlook.  It gives me something to think about and maybe look forward to someday.

Tinnitus, pronounced TIN-i-tus, as most doctors are quick to correct you, is a ringing in the ears.  Basically you hear something that is not there, a phantom noise, for which there is no cause or cure yet to be discovered.  Loud noise, however, can be a direct cause of some cases of tinnitus.  I have definitely been around loud noise my entire life: drummer, computer operator, seven kids, animals, crying babies, etc.

In an effort to help mankind, I participated in a medical study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense and the University of Illinois last year in an effort to discover how the brain reacts to tinnitus, and which neurons are most affected by the condition.  It was a lengthy process that required several hearing tests, MRI’s, active brain scan hearing evaluations, and follow up questionnaires.  The study is part of a very large nation-wide medical study to better understand the effects of tinnitus of soldiers and how to predict, diagnose, prevent, and cure it.  I was proud to be a part of it, even though I may never know what good my role played in any outcome.  I hope and pray that someday everyone can have clear, crisp hearing.

Even without the tinnitus, my hearing is not what it used to be.  I am turning the TV up louder and asking people to repeat themselves and slow down while talking.  I find myself using closed captioning on the television almost all of the time.

The funny thing about closed captioning is that sometimes you get a good typist, and sometimes you get a monkey.  I am not joking.  The other day I was in my room (because the kids were in the living room eating Doritos and watching a movie I had seen ten times already) so I was just casually browsing on my computer while watching some wrestling with only the closed captioning on because John was beside me trying to nap.  

Suddenly I hear John laughing.  He sat up and took the remote control and rewound the wrestling show, and played it back with the volume up.  He continued to laugh, and rewound it again, and said to me, “I knew that announcer didn’t just say that…”  I watched as the words scrolled across the screen, that were clearly not what the announcer was saying.  We continued to watch and listen as the closed captioning was hilariously wrong.  It was the funniest thing I had seen in a long time.  Try it, Mediacom channel 114.  Amateur MMA fighting.

If you are bored, if you are lonely, if you are going stir crazy, if you want to learn something new, if you want to take your mind off of the current events, or if you simply just want to be more thankful; take time to pay attention and really listen to what you are hearing. Slide that face mask up over your eyes and listen. It is a gift from God.

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