I don’t know how to sleep.
After 40-plus years of practicing this condition, I yet to figure out where to put my arms. Then if I don’t have white noise to sleep to, Zs are a lost cause. (Like I ever get R.E.M. sleep anyway.) Plus I grind my teeth to dust nightly.
Now there’s this new complication. My tinnitus has a soundtrack.
I didn’t even know I had tinnitus. I’ve heard the occasional high-pitched ringing, but not often enough to throw myself into traffic. Last week I was diagnosed with a rare form of tinnitus called Musical Ear Syndrome (MES). I hear phantom music and have auditory hallucinations, like hearing sportscasters or talk radio.
I was positive I was certifiably insane.
After a hearing test, though, the doc confirmed my Googling.
I noticed its arrival in the past few years, but dismissed it. Then I started searching for that nonexistent clock radio I forgot to turn off in 1997. I’d search the property, inside and out, in pursuit of the external source. It antagonized and perplexed me.
Two weeks ago I heard Nixon (as in Dick) speaking. It was a muffled lo-fi AM radio-style noise playing around my space as I readied to take a nap. (I Rip Van Winkle the shit out of Saturdays the moment my spawn exits my care.)
I didn’t want to nap with a Dick in my ear, so after the routine house sweep (for nothing in particular because my searches always come up empty handed), I then — as a good hypochondriac does — started Googling.
“Hearing talk radio and songs that aren’t there.”
Please don’t tell me I’m crazy, please don’t tell me I’m crazy.
“Musical ear syndrome is more common than you might think, and affects around 5% of the population. These auditory hallucinations can be very stressful for the person experiencing them, and if you have musical ear syndrome you might even feel embarrassed to tell anyone what you’re hearing. It can affect people of all ages, with normal hearing, with tinnitus, or with hearing loss. You’re not going crazy.”
Holy redemption, batfriends.
I booked a hearing test anyway since I’m halfway to kicking the bucket and my eardrums hath endured the wrath of many a Gen X concert. I passed with flying colors.
The doc confirmed that I wasn’t going crazy. He shared a bizarre story about a lullaby MES case between Irish twins separated at birth who later reunited. The symptom is quite rare, he said, and is more common in women. Maybe I’m a medium? He told me to call him if I hear lottery numbers.
These phantom tunes, they’re not frightening, they’re fascinating. (Except when it’s techno, Creed-style rock or corrupt talking heads.) It only happens maybe a couple times a month (so far). It’s often (but not limited to) when I’m tired, or laying down to sleep. It’s muffled, I can’t make out words, but it’s really neat. It follows me around the house from room to room. I feel like I have a super power. I can gauge genres and voices (I’m looking at you, Scott Stapp and Nixon, beat it), but not words.
When I tweeted about it, a Boulderite DMed me, “I think I have this. I just dropped my phone bc you explained my life! What can they do about it?”
(She hears phantom radio.)
Doc said not much. If it starts affecting my life or consuming my thoughts then I can see a neurologist to make sure I don’t have a Fender amp lodged in my temporal lobe. But so far it’s inconsistent, it’s not annoying. Now that I know what the hell it is, it’s less intrusive.
I’ll see where this goes, I guess. As for now, I dig it. And bloody hell, people, I need something to dig right now. (Alex, I’ll also take “A Rich Man’s Pocket” for $800.)