I had my appointment with the otolaryngologist and audiologist at OSU this afternoon. I met with two doctors, had a thorough hearing exam, and the diagnosis is tinnitus, a constant ringing or buzzing in the ears, ICD-9-CM code 399.30. I have felt this since before Christmas, but thought that it was a byproduct of my annual bouts with coughs, sneezing, and runny nose, so I rode it out. This time, it wasn’t going away.
The hearing check reminded me of the tests I had in first grade. The equipment is more sophisticated, and the setting a lot more pleasant than the school nurse’s office, but it was essentially the same. I held a clicker in my hand, and I was supposed to push it whenever I heard the tone in one side or the other of my headphones. The tones varied in pitch and in volume, but I pushed the button whenever I heard one, or thought I did.
How did my tinnitus come about? I have never had a job where I’ve been around constant high-decibel noise, such as operating a jackhammer, or playing in a heavy metal band, or working on the ground crew at an airport. I shudder when I say this, but it’s a byproduct of aging (I will be 48 next month). There has been nerve damage in my ears, and the affected nerves pick up sounds in the higher registers. Since I am no longer hearing more high-pitched sounds, my brain is generating the non-stop, high-pitched whine to compensate for it. (I realize I may have had this problem longer than I thought: When listening to any type of recording, whether it is music or voice, I always turn the treble as high as it will go, while keeping the bass level in the middle, at the very highest. If I owned a more high-end stereo system–I almost typed “hi-fi,” betraying how old I really am!–I probably would have gone through tweeters by the dozen every year.)
What is to be done? Apparently nothing, unless the whine intensifies to the point that it either prevents me from sleeping or awakens me during the night. The doctor and the resident both suggested that I take melatonin, which would increase restfulness and lessen the effects of the tinnitus to the extent that I can sleep better.
In other news, tonight was my first night back at the Discovery Exchange, Columbus State’s bookstore. I was home briefly between the doctor appointment and the job at the bookstore, and it was good to be back to work. This is finals week at Columbus State. On the second floor, which is where I work, cartons of incoming books tightly occupied every square inch of available floor space. There were only two of us working, and not many customers, so I took a cart full of books and began shelving them. It’s my first day back, so I need to relearn where many books go. By the weekend, I’ll be able to glance at a book cover and better know where it belongs, from sheer repetition if nothing else. Tonight, I focused mainly on titles I knew instantly, especially the basic English reference books such as The Blair Handbook. It’s best to take the low-hanging fruit in the beginning. The best way to find something is to stop looking for it.