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Columns > Dean Budnick - From the Editor

Published: 2008/11/12
by Dean Budnick

No, Really, Lend Me Your Ears

A number of you emailed me over the past month after I mentioned tinnitus in my October editorial. So I thought I would follow up with the following essay, slightly revised from a piece that ran in the December/January 2004 issue of Relix.


I’ve got a case of the Kiki Dees like you wouldn’t believe.

Now, that may sound salacious (or perhaps revolting, depending on your threshold for Elton John duets) so let me amend. What I meant to say is, “I’ve Got The Music In Me.”

So why am I reluctant to share? Well, it’s not as glorious as you might think. I was compelled to confront my condition the other night after a friend bamboozled me at the last minute into an evening of music at a local club that I had sworn off long ago. By mid-set any reluctance had melted, as the band really started to hit it and a wondrous swirl of rhythms and tones began ringing in my head. A few hours later, while driving home, I buzzed at the memory of what had gone down, revisiting those singular moments still ringing in my head. And later, as I plopped into bed my thoughts drifted to more tranquil, soporific realmsor they would have but for the fact they were quashed by those freaking sounds a-ring, ring, ringing in my head.

You see I’ve got the music in me and sometimes I wish I could get it the hell out.

Tinnitus. I’m not even sure how to pronounce it. Do you accent the first or the second syllable, use the long I or the short I? How does that Gershwin tune go? “You say tinnitus and I say tinnitus” Perhaps George and Ira can muster the energy to call the whole thing off. Myself, I’m lying in the fetal position, unconcerned with the particulars of phonation, tortured by my inability to mute the shrill whistle reverberating throughout my cranium.

Don’t let this happen to you. After a few oppressive years, I am now prepared to offer up the following coping techniques

1. Surrender To the Totality of the Tonality
Dig deep within and emit your own strident whine of the precise frequency that you are hearing in an attempt to drown out and vanquish it (but if it’s 3 AM and there’s someone sleeping next to you, you may be compounding your problems. Then again, a swift knee to your private parts may prove refreshing by comparison).

2. You Got The Beat
Don’t forget, that’s pure sound trapped in your noggin. It’s steady and true, so why not make the best of it, human beatbox style. Jam on, my brothers and sisters (I would not recommend that you boast indiscriminately about your ability to provide rich, rhythmic counterpoint to the noises that echo within your head, as it turns out this doesn’t reflect well on your sanity).

3. Crush, Kill, Destroy
Thrust a blunt object into your ear (I’ve never attempted this although I suspect it could be painful. If possible use something a bit more supple, like one of those leeches from Wrath of Khan).

Other options? Assign blame, silly. I’m fingering the promoters (not literally).

Or, well, you could always wear ear protection.

What I have learned is that if I am good to my ears for extended periods, the ringing does indeed abate. It is only when I make the mistake of going to a show without some form of protection that I end the evening encased within a cocoon of strident sound. I once scoffed at the plugs. I assumed that diminishing the volume meant diminishing the experience. That may be true with foamies which can muffle the music but for about ten bucks more you can purchase quality, comfortable devices that will lend clarity to the music (remove them briefly, mid-show and cringe at the superfluous white noise). And yes, kids can be cruel, so if someone denigrates your decision to defend your hearing, just open your mouth and pretend to respond. Your pal may get the point (or failing that, drop the word eargasm into conversation. I’m not altogether sure what it means but you may get a giggle or at least a weak smile out of it).

So where does this leave us? To review: tinnitus bad, hearing protection good. Think of this our Public Service Announcement with your editor atop his soapbox (which frankly is to my benefit, as it turns out I’m not getting any taller). So please allow me to bellow earnestly, “Friends, Roman, countrymen, lend me your ears..”

No, really. Lend me your ears.

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