Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.
Because a vision softly creeping, left its seed while I was sleeping.
And the vision that was planted in my brain, still remains,
Within the sounds of silence… Paul Simon
One of my favorite Simon & Garfunkel songs since it came out in the mid-60’s. At my age however I view the lyrics much differently than I did going through my teenage angst years.
During my late 40’s I faced my first real health issue, although in seriousness, it was barely a blip on the radar screen. My overall health was excellent, Hubs was starting a new business, and our last kid was in college. Finally. (When you space each of your children 4-1/2 years apart, having ‘one’ in college literally lasts forever. Still, better for me than having them a year apart and going stark raving mad).
A small crisis started taking shape around 1998 in the life of this busy 40-something, wife, mom, grandma and Parish Visitor. I began to lose my ability to hear. While this was troubling, I was unsure of how far the domino effect of my deafness would affect the rest of my life. Without a doubt, every facet. I didn’t recognize these changing nuances at the time, only in my rear view, years later.
Upon its inception, the loss of hearing was minor. Confined only to my left ear for a couple years until my right ear concluded it was a competition and tried to out-deaf my left. Sibling rivalry at its finest.
1. I had no real fear of darkness but suddenly I didn’t like the dark. As if I couldn’t hear in the dark, it somehow affected my sight. Crazy. Soon the house took on the appearance of a major airport runway. Strategically placed night lights gave me a better sense of security when I moved about.
2. I stopped blasting the radio when I was in the car. It was no longer carefree fun to sing to the oldies. I had to have it quiet so I could determine where outside noises were coming from like fire trucks and ambulances. I could hear sirens-but didn’t know what direction the sound was coming from-ahead or behind me until I spotted them.
3. Phone calls became annoying after being a favorite pastime. I missed a great deal of conversations and my usual response was, “what?” Luckily cell phones were making great strides with text messages, which has been a lifeline for me.
4. I didn’t ‘lose’ my sense of humor, just my ability to ‘use’ my sense of humor. I always had a quick wit (sometimes even clever) with a humorous, sarcastic, self-deprecating way with words. Now if I was with more than 2 people, I couldn’t keep up with conversations. I’d still be processing what was said 90 seconds ago, thus missing an opportunity to say ‘anything snarky.’ I can’t tell you how much I miss that. I really do. You lose a lot trying to add to a joke 2 minutes late. Believe me, I’ve tried.
But the biggest challenges/changes were just beginning. First I was diagnosed with Meniere’s, which sometimes accompanies a hearing loss. The minuscule inner ear ‘hair cells’ (affected by sounds flying past) were lying flat as a pancake when they should have been standing at attention and swaying in the breeze of sounds. Meniere’s causes fluctuation in the fluid of my inner ear which affects my balance. I get dizzy if I look up or down, don’t feel safe climbing higher than one step on a ladder. Any sudden/jerky movements of my head or laying down with my head flat makes me dizzy and nauseous.
Ever so slowly, (probably 3-5 years) with the stealth of a starving panther, my head started producing noise which goes against the very definition of DEAFNESS. When someone’s deaf, their world should be silent. My head was filled with annoying, obnoxious sounds-all the time. Wind tunnel, dentist drill, chain saw, aircraft carrier, the snowy sound of TV station after it went off the air, live electrical wires pinging off the pavement. The more hearing impaired I became, the louder the noises. My hearing specialist said it’s my brain’s way of substituting for the sounds it no longer hears, so it makes sounds up in their place. Believe me, it’s the only time in my life my brain has ever worked overtime. I begged the doctor for surgery to cut every nerve causing this incessant noise. I literally begged. Can’t be done.
Honest to God, it’s enough to drive one mad. That’s the gospel truth.
I became fairly proficient in blocking out the noise-during the day while I’m busy, working, cooking, chores, shopping. But late at night, my life becomes almost unbearable. Sleep is elusive. For a spell, the white noise from a fan helped. Now I can’t hear the fan, but Hubs has become so ingrained with that particular noise, he can’t sleep without it. Oh the irony.
It’s late, I’m tired and in bed. Thank God for my day, pray for my family and friends. Gave Him a quick heads up that I’m grateful it’s my ears affected and not my eyes. The house is quiet and dark (well except for the 20 strategically placed night lights, but none in the bedroom). The 747 in my head has not received the green light to land from the tower and has enough fuel to circle the airport (my head) all night. When I listen, really listen to the noise between my ears, I’m amazed I haven’t gone off the deep end. How can anyone live with this constant racket? It’s impossible. I’m depressed and isolated. The less I hear, the smaller my world becomes. I’m positive I can’t understand the words spoken to me because there’s so much interfering noise in my head. It now supersedes any loss of hearing. No doctor can convince me otherwise.
Sounds of silence. What I wouldn’t give if this were true for me. Almost anything.
The reason my whacked out head issues have been on my mind of late is because of a guy who made the news. A CEO of a chain of restaurants (he founded) that the Hubs and I frequent. This successful guy came down with COVID a few months ago. Since his recovery he’s encountered some debilitating side affects from COVID. The worst being tinnitus. Noises in his ears/head are so loud and distracting he thought he’d go crazy. (Inappropriate for me to say, “Dude, I hear ‘ya,” because I can’t, but I sympathize and know what he was going through). But not exactly. The difference is the way we came to be in the same boat, so to speak.
My profound hearing loss/Meniere’s/tinnitus has been a long, miserable journey, culminating in 2 decades-so far. Kent Taylor didn’t get that slow, subtle introduction. No pokey decline in his hearing, with little blips of distracting noises that increased over the years. I don’t know how long it took for his full, 130 decibels of mind blowing, gut wrenching noise that never lets up, but it hasn’t been a year since he had the virus. His head full of wretched noise was more of a wham/bam/thank you/ma’am/in your face.
If that ‘full frontal assault’ had been the case with me, constant, unbearable noise you cannot fathom that no one else can hear, I can say without hesitation, I too would have taken my own life. Absolutely no doubt. Sorry God. I feel terrible for Kent Taylor and his family for the loss of his life, but certainly understand his motives and his escape clause…