For a nearly a decade now, I'd lose sleep some nights because I thought the port was too noisy. Port of Nelson is known to operate forklifts and cranes overnight when they load/unload large ships; it's a common complaint. Except Trish, whose parents live overlooking the port, said my house is facing the wrong way so I shouldn't be hearing the port. Then a staff at my gym told me she used to live a few houses away from our place, but her husband couldn't sleep because of the noise from a saw mill a few km away, so for the last two years I blamed the saw mill. Except when we drive by the place on weekends, they are shut closed, and I wondered if they actually worked overnight some times. Then last Christmas Day, I could not shut down the noise and figured it couldn't be the saw mill. As well, in the last few years, when we were in the country where silence should have been deafening, (and it's easy to find places like that in New Zealand), I felt as if I brought the forklift on holiday with us.
About a month ago, I was complaining about this to Nancy, and she thought I might have tinnitus. I had never heard of it until then, but once I learned of this -itus, everywhere I looked people are talking/writing about it. So I signed up for a hearing test and had it done this morning, and found out I do indeed have tinnitus, and this is something that's largely inside my head, caused by age-related hair loss.
It's like this. Inside our inner ear, which is often depicted like a swirly seashell, is a thin tube filled with fluid, and there are tiny hairs growing on the inside of this tube. These hairs vibrate and tell the brain what we are hearing. (Ummm... can't remember what the ear drum does relative to the hairs, but the drum probably causes vibration of the fluid in the tube??) We loose the tiny hairs naturally as we grow older, and when gaps appear on the inside of the tube, sometimes the brain compensates by making up noises. It's like phantom pain of a severed limb. Here's a picture, but without any hair.
This is caused by physiological change, but can to a certain extent be reduced or ignored. The audiologist (Gill in pink) recommended that I play music or have the radio on at a low volume, but what I like the best is silence, which doesn't work very well. She laughed because for the last few months, on the odd mornings when I didn't hear the forklift, I got worried and listened for it, and almost felt relieved to find the annoying thing. Tinnitus goes hand in hand with depression, insomnia, anxiety, etc., so I've had the whole package.
I borrowed this machine that's supposed to create low-volume noises, just enough to make the forklift not dominate my nights, but she told me not to wear ear plugs, because they make me concentrate more of the darned thing. And from her reading, there has been no definitive food-noise link substantiated, but individual patients have found foods which trigger the noise. Said giving up caffeine seems to help a lot of people, so I could try that for three weeks if I so wished.
The good news is, we don't have to move house. The bad news is, I'm loosing hair in places I didn't even know I owned. And there is no hair-loss treatment for the inner ear.
Oh, and as to my hearing itself, nothing wrong with it; actually very good for my age group. Which means when Ben mumbles, which he does a lot, it's his problem, not mine.