I Dread The Quiet Of The Night
As I was about to leave the house the other day Fleetwood Mac’s Man of the World came on the radio just as my hand hovered to turn my DAB off. It’s one of those songs that will always stop me in my tracks, the regret croaking out of Peter Green in an act of a heartfelt confession.
I have the added built-in feature of the crackle and static of listening to it as if it was on Vinyl, or an old wireless radio not quite tuned in, because I have Tinnitus. I don’t mean to romanticise it, making it sounds as if a medical condition that strikes 1 in 10 gives a vintage sound to your world because it doesn’t. It’s funny, typing out the words ‘medical condition’ because I think of it as more of an annoyance, something to suffer and endure. Ultimately something I have been learning to live with since November 2011.
Since contracting Tinnitus I’ve had frustrating experiences from GP’s. When I finally got to see an ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat) Doctor I patiently tried different forms of medication. From tipping my head back to administer a salt spray twice a day to getting down on all fours like a dog and pouring a solution that was uncomfortable and felt like it was eroding the skin inside my nose. The gentle, but firm, smack of a tuning fork over my head is a stark reminder that I should have known better. Actually I had never given much thought to looking after my hearing in the same way I’d floss regularly or go to the opticians.
I dread the quiet of night. Working and living in London I have the constant distraction of noise to help drown out the ever changing noises in my brain. The rattle of the tube carriages and the building site currently outside my office window mean I can sometimes tune out of it during the day. It’s hard to describe how the sounds I hear shifts sides, changes tone and pitch. That I’m convinced alcohol heightens it but can’t know for certain, that some days are better than others. On the terrible and unbearable nights I sleep little, in the morning I am bleary eyed, exhausted and prone to make mistakes (from grammatical errors to not paying enough attention when crossing the road). When the sound suddenly changes I have to ask others around me if they can hear a strange buzzing, I’m sometimes thrown by what’s in my brain and what’s reality. This inability to communicate something only I can hear is frustrating and, how I wish I meant this literally, I sometimes end up suffering in silence.
Next time that song comes on the radio, the one that stops you in your tracks because it brings a long-lost lover to memory, reminds you of a cherished friend long gone, makes you sigh, skip, cry or smile with every facial muscle, pause for a moment. Think what life would be like with that melody, specific lyric, cowbell or the plink of piano keys ruined by a constant sound cutting across it. Or how the lack of sleep or stress will affect your life, and perhaps your relationships. If I’ve scared you then that was my intention. If you are in a band, DJ, just love standing by the speakers in venues or you’re one of those annoying types on public transport that listens to your music so everyone else can hear please think about your ears for a moment. It’s my one life regret.
NB: I started writing this post last year. A recent article by Eddy Temple-Morris for Huffington Post and the fact that it’s Tinnitus Awareness Week made me revisit this with a determination to tell it like it is. You can read his article here