I have not heard the sound of silence for almost three years now. My sense of hearing has been divided into Before and After. After the car accident-a random, run of the mill accident, in which I lost the sound of silence forever. The sound of the impact, multiple airbags, a change in pressure, it was just enough. Just enough to teach me four new words: Bilateral Sensorineural Hearing Loss.
For those of you unaccustomed to hearing loss, one does not simply lose the sensation of sound, the nuances of music, the words mumbled in a crowd, the whispers in a dark theatre or on the pillow as you fall asleep. The true los s of hearing is more often than not accompanied by the never-ending sound of silence. Those with hearing loss will describe it differently, as it varies from person to person. How do you describe something that only you can hear, something that is in your head? How do you make someone else hear it the way that you do? The answer is simply, you can’t.
My silence is filled with a high pitch whine, much like that of the old tv channels signing off for the night. My silence is continuous, an all day/all night affair. It never stops and never gets quieter, not for one second of my day. If I focus on it and nothing else, it is all I hear. If I am listening for other sounds, I am listening over it. My silence gets louder, oftentimes when I am angry, or stressed. But it never gets, well-silent.
My silence makes me tired. Tired of voices, tired of music, tired of everything and anything around me. It makes me cranky and bitchy and short. In the beginning it made me just plain tired-napping all the time. Maybe I was looking for silence in my sleep? My silence can hide things too-it is quite crafty. The alarm on my clock, the beep of the microwave, all hide within the pitch in my head, and disappear.
I am no longer sure what is worse, the sound of silence, or the hearing loss itself. It has been a long journey accepting both, and there are days I find I still have not. I am not completely deaf, I am now one of the millions of Americans that are hard of hearing. Only, my hearing didn’t slip away gently with age, and my hearing loss didn’t sneak up on me in certain situations until I noticed it following me everywhere. My hearing changed in an instant. And my silence was gone.
I still fight with my hearing aids and how they fit, send them in for adjustments I know will not help, and complain about sounds that will never be the same. I still ask for any new breakthroughs in tinnitus treatments at my check ups. I nod politely at the suggestions they offer-sound machines to mask it. That will still not grant me silence.
The sound of silence to me is not words left unsaid, though in my life I have plenty of those, and hopefully plenty of time to say them. It is not trying to be silent for five minutes, five hours or five days. While learning to adjust to the noise of life with hearing aids and tinnitus, I have found peace in being silent on my own. Not speaking for hours has become soothing to me, relaxing. The alternative is awkward conversations in crowds, and jokes to cover up my embarrassment.
No, my silence now has a sound, and it always will.