Lend Me Your Ears (Dr. Budnick’s Tale of Tinnitis)
Yesterday, while flipping through the December/January 2004 issue with the Phish cover story we posted online, we found this piece written by Executive Editor Dean Budnick, sharing his thoughts on a medical malady that persists…
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 I am reluctant to share? Well, it’s not as a 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 realms… or 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.
Tinnitis. 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 brothers tune go? “You say tinnitus and I say tinnitis…” Perhaps George and Ira can muster the energy to call the whole thing off.
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 3am 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 apparently this doesn’t reflect well on your sanity).
3. Crush, 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, of course (not literally). I don’t know about you but I’m hankering for an old-fashioned class action lawsuit, even if I still haven’t received my $11.23 from the CD price fixing settlement (gee, do you think the attorneys have found the time to collect the $14,000,000 in fees awarded them by the court?). Hmmm… who should I hold responsible for my debilitating medical ailment? Tip to the less-than-media-savvy: when in doubt, denounce Clear Channel [in 2011, make that Live Nation].
Or wear ear protection. Your call.
What I have also learned is that if I am good to my ears for extended periods then 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 will 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 the eleven bucks that you just may see from the CD settlement 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 drop the word eargasm into conversation; I’m not sure what it means but it tends to make folks giggle).
So where does this leave us? To review: tinnitus bad, hearing protection good. Think of this installment of Laminated as a variant of the Public Service Announcement that radio stations are required to air. Imagine me, atop my soapbox (which, frankly, is to my benefit, as it turns out I’m not getting any taller) and allow me to bellow earnestly, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears…”
No, really. Lend me your ears.
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