A few years ago I went to bed on Christmas Eve looking forward to the next morning of opening presents, especially watching my dog Ben rip open his presents which is so cute to observe. After getting settled into bed and when things became quiet, I noticed this high-pitched beeping sound, it was intermittent, quickly beeping on and off. It sounded like a light bulb that was about to go out, or something wrong with the alarm clock/radio. I turned on the light and listened closely but couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. I got up and went to the bathroom which was on the other side of the bedroom wall to see if the sound was coming from there. Nope. I still couldn’t figure out what was happening, so I turned off the light and went back to bed. There was that beeping sound again!
It took me a few minutes to figure out that the sound was coming from inside my head – my right ear to be exact – this freaked me out so I woke up my wife and told her what was happening. We talked for a bit and then I ended up taking a sleeping pill to help me relax and get to sleep.
Soon after I booked an appointment with my doctor and when I showed up for the appointment, he told me that my condition was called tinnitus – a ringing in the ears. He said that there was really nothing he could do for me but he referred me to an ear, nose and throat specialist. It took a few weeks to get in to see the specialist but I eventually got to see him. He had me do a hearing test and I noticed when the voice in the headphones said ‘Say the word…CAT’ I wanted to ask them to turn up the volume! I was thinking perhaps my teen years of blasting heavy metal music in the headphones had finally caught up with me. The specialist had a look at the results, scribbled something down on a piece of paper and slid it towards me. On it there were two words – cochlear otosclerosis. I didn’t know what that was but didn’t think I would like it. He told me that the cochlea is a spongy bone in the ear and that it can grow uncontrollably and damage the hair cells that convert sounds into electrical pulses. He was fairly nonchalant and uninterested as he told me there was nothing that could be done about it. He said it was progressive and that it varied how much hearing would be gone. He was also surprised I didn’t hear the sound in both ears. Not the greatest bedside manner that’s for sure.
So over the last couple of years the sound started to become constant and I kind of got used to it. But every once in a while the intermittent sound comes back in full force. I imagine new hair cells are getting damaged and starting the usual process of noise generation. It’s hard to tell if it’s in the left ear as well.
As a musician this is an especially scary prospect but sometimes I can see it as a blessing in disguise. For years I’ve been teaching students for free on youtube and on my website, helping them with things I have discovered in my guitar journey, wanted to save them the frustration I went through learning how to solo. So when I’m feeling tired, lazy and just not quite up to the task, the little noises in my head remind me to make haste, dear teacher. So for that I am grateful.