I can’t remember ever not hearing tones in my ear. I don’t normally notice it until there is sudden silence in a room or if someone mentions ringing in their ears. It wasn’t until I was in my 40’s dealing with other health problems that during a conversation with a neurotologist that I realized not everyone had this. I assumed that all people had ringing in their ears to some degree or another and that people who talked about it as a problem just had it much worse.
My doctor explained to me that no, that’s not how it works but that because I always have had these sounds in my ears my brain learned to compensate and started blocking the sounds most of the time. When I pay attention to them it starts to quickly become overwhelming. Just talking about it or doing something like this, and I will get a headache or nauseated, or both.
I always heard at least three tones in my right ear all the time and one in my left. Sometimes there were additional tones that show up. Other noise can drown out these tones. My own humming or whistling, dogs barking, televisions, kids they all help to silence the sounds in my head. It wasn’t until my life got so quiet that I began to notice the changes in the sounds.
When I am in the living room I hear different tones than if I am in the kitchen. The bedroom is much quieter in my head than the back deck. The car is also a very quiet place to be. I started experimenting with different ways to amplify or muffle the sounds. If I cover my left ear the sounds in that ear become louder and clearer, if I cover my right ear those tones become more distinguishable. My left ear hears more low pitched tones and my right higher pitches. Well, generally. There is some crossover but I haven’t figured that part out yet.
So this is what happened, I was home almost alone. My husband was working out of town for the week. I had taken my dogs, who are louder than any tinnitus could ever be, to a dog daycare for the day. I was supposed to be going out for lunch but it got cancelled at the last minute, so instead of picking up the dogs I was going to go home and sweep. As all good industrious plans have a habit of doing around me, that plan quickly turned into sitting in my chair playing on my tablet. I really love games.
There was no sound in the room except standard room sounds. A small hum from the modem, the air-conditioner running in the background, a small trickle of water from the cats water fountain in the kitchen but something made me tune in to the ringing in my ear. I was hearing a new sound. It was a very low tone. It was very soft but also very distinct. Sometimes I have trouble figuring out if the sound is actually come from inside or outside my head so I closed my eyes and covered my ears with my hands. At that moment the air conditioner turned off and I could hear the low tone so clearly.
I sat and listened to it and did what I always do, try to figure out what note it would be on a scale, I’m never right but I do it anyway. I guessed this one was about a low A on a bass guitar, it was really low and deep. I was so deep in concentration that I about jumped out of my chair when I heard Frank the cat jump over the dog gate and land in the kitchen. Frank is kind of hefty so the impact is not small.
Even without focusing I could still hear this new sound. As I settled back down it began to get louder and very much more pronounced. I also noticed that it had a staccato beat to it. A lot of sounds do that, almost a warble sometimes, but this was very rhythmic. The longer I listened, the louder it seemed to become. It was almost so loud that I swear someone sitting next to me could hear it. Then it became steady again, no staccato. I opened my eyes and about jumped out of my seat again because Frank was sitting on the table next to me which put him at eye level. Of course as soon as I opened my eyes he took this as an invitation and climbed in my lap. That’s when I figured it out. The sound was changing as he moved.
Now I know you all are thinking I’m imagining things but I tell you I spent an hour going in and out of rooms and stalking Frank while trying to make no noise myself so I could track this tone and I because one hundred percent positive when Frank was within a certain distance to me I could hear a new tone ringing in my ears. You can guess what happened when I went to get the dogs can’t you? I spent so long trying to “hear” them through tinnitus but no matter how quiet I tried to keep things, or how close I got to them I just could not hear it. At least, not that day.
I think it was about 6 weeks later that I noticed the Benny sound. Benny is a beagle so for some reason I expected his sound to be like his howl, annoying, but it isn’t. It’s actually quite pleasant. Maybe a middle C on a piano. Once I started hearing it, just like with Frank, it was there from them on. I could close my eyes and tell you which animals were in the room with me. Dusty’s sound was super high pitched and took the longest for me to find. I think it had more to do with how high pitched it is than anything else. I could only hear her in my right ear, while I could hear Benny & Frank in my left ear.
I’ve thought about this a lot of course and I think it has something to do with the shape of my ears on the inside. I know my ears are smaller on the inside then they are supposed to be. I have to get pretty regular hearing tests and exams and they always end up switching to child size instruments for me. Oh, I think I forgot to mention that part. I have significant hearing loss in one ear, and moderate hearing loss in the other. That’s why I was at the neurotologist to begin with, trying to figure out why. My hearing is very slowly going away. Luckily it’s slow, I’ll probably be one-hundred and twenty before it’s completely gone at the rate it’s slipping away. I have a hearing aid for one ear but I don’t like to wear it. I find it uncomfortable and worse it deadens some of the ringing in my ears.
I know, you’re probably thinking that would be a good thing, right? Well, the thing is, as time has gone on I have started to develop more and more tones, and once I figured out the animal connection I was able to start attaching other tones to their source. I can hear my husband come in the room without ever looking up. I know when he’s one room away, or four. Usually I can’t hear him when he is outside but as my natural hearing fades I think I might get to that point.
One day when he came in his tone was gone. I assumed it was me, something changed in my head and the tones were going to fade away, but that night he came down with the flu. My husband very rarely gets sick an when he does he goes full on flat on his back out for a couple of days. I could hear him again the next day but it was faint. By the third day he was as loud as ever.
I can’t really ask a doctor about it, I am sure any doctor would just assume I was lying or maybe a little mad. Every single living thing has a tone now. I can’t always hear all of them, and some are very very soft so I have to focus, but I’ve often wondered if maybe there are other people out there like me, too uncomfortable to tell anyone else. Maybe if we got together and compared notes we could learn even more. Could there be some sort of language to the tones? I was for us to communicate with them?
I don’t know if I’ll ever find a good use for this talent other than speaking to people as they’re walking up behind me and laughing at their faces as they try to figure out how I knew they were there, but I’m going to try.
***Some of this story is an accurate representation and some may have wandered off the truth path just a bit. I’ll let you decide what parts. TM
About the Creator
Vegetarian/Mostly Vegan, Holistic Nutritionist,cat loving, Stage IV cancer ninja 💜 (stg 3-2011 stg 4-2014) Chemo for life
I write so I don’t scream.
Not a fan of taking anything too seriously
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