Flashback to 1985, its 2:00 a.m. and I ask my friend what that buzzing sound is. “What sound?” he replies. I can’t figure out where this strange noise is coming from and he tells me he can’t hear it. This was incredibly disquieting and led to a sleepless night. We were on winter break in my freshman year of college and had just returned from a concert by one of my favorite California Punk Rock bands (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent) at the Utah State Fairgrounds in Salt Lake City.
As a child I experienced ear infections, had ear tubes, and later developed hyperacousis which is sensitivity to certain sounds. On this fateful night at age 17, listening to loud, hard charging music my apparently fragile auditory system reached a threshold where it could no longer offer protection from this sustained aural assault. I experienced an acoustic trauma which quite likely started the ringing in my ears which I later learned was called tinnitus.
I’m one of the fortunate people who only have brief experiences with these unusual noises seemingly created from within. They are short lived and only occur when I am under acute stress. However there are millions far less fortunate including my wife who have sustained and often punishing perception of noise. She suffers from a hearing loss and what is often unbearable tinnitus.
Paradoxically an article just came to my attention titled “That Buzzing Sound- The mystery of tinnitus”. It was published in today’s issue of The New Yorker-Digital Edition. The author is Jerome Groopman who opens with a similar experience to my own where he makes the rather unpleasant discovery of a phantom noise that only he could perceive. Huge advancements have been made in tinnitus research and treatment. This is a well researched article that I highly encourage you to read if you or anyone you know experiences that strange buzzing sound.