I was pondering something today. I believe that if I were to lose my hands under some tragic circumstance, I would find some way to still make music. Hell, I would do it with my tongue and feet if I had to. But the ears are a different thing. Without them, there would be no making music in the way that I’m accustomed. Right now, I have good reason to ponder this.
To be clear, I don’t just mean musical instruments. In my opinion, music comes from everything we hear, from the melodies of birds to the rhythm and accentuation of conversation. Music surrounds us every minute of every day if we are attuned to it.
So, why do I bring all of this up?
I woke up a few days ago and was completely unable to hear out of my left ear. I had taken my regular swim the night before and figured some ear wax was temporarily lodged in there. It’s happened before and it usually clears up within a few minutes with a little help from a Q-tip. Not this time.
I put on a pair of headphones to try to figure out the severity. I used a piano sound and it sounded like someone was playing very far away. I was concerned, but still hopeful that it would clear by the end of the day. Three days later, still nothing.
I started reading on the internet and I don’t recommend that, unless you are really into having the crap scared out of you. I saw the doctor the next morning. Turns out, my ear is impacted by wax, to the point that they were unable to clean it through irrigation or by using a scoop (I don’t know the medical terminology for the handy device). Now, I’m on anti-inflammatory ear drops and antibiotics, with the hope that it will clear itself over the next week. If not, back to the doctor and they try to irrigate it again. That procedure wasn’t exactly pleasant and I hope it doesn’t come to that.
I’ve pondered plenty of scary scenarios over the past few days, much like the one that I described in the first paragraph. I’m not usually one to overreact, but I’ve never lost my hearing before either. I liken it to what claustrophobia must feel like, in that it is a continuous psychological battle at the moment to stay focused on anything. I’m irritable and anxious and depressed, not a good combination, and I’m taking lots of deep breaths and doing everything I can to distract myself.
But something good always comes from every bad experience. I’ve been cooped up writing new material for the better part of two months now, as I attempt to create my first CD of original music. I was starting to feel a little burned out by the creative process because I’ve not taken a day off from the project since I started. I had even contemplated taking a few days off just to step away, but didn’t feel comfortable with that. Well, I’ll now be taking the rest of the week off (unless things clear up sooner) whether I want to or not. I certainly would have preferred different circumstances, but my motivation to continue is greater than ever.
Right now, the thing I want most in this world is to put on those headphones and to be able to hear a piano out of both sides. That’s all I ask. In all of my years, I never once contemplated not being able to do that, and now it has been almost four days. I will never take my hearing for granted again, I assure you that.
This brings up something else I wanted to touch upon, an insidious condition known as tinnitus. It is fairly common with people who have played in loud bands for many years as I have. I suffer from it and it has become more profound in the last year. At first, there would be ringing after gigs that would last for a couple of hours. Then the ringing started to last for a couple of days. Now, it is continuous, as in, it never stops. Thankfully, it is normally a faint ringing, because I’ve talked to a few people where this isn’t the case.
Rather stupidly, I’ve never worn earplugs when I play, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to hear what I needed to. After what I’m going through right now, I won’t ever do a loud gig without them. I know that my current condition is not related to my tinnitus, but the bottom line is, I cannot afford to do any more damage to the very thing that allows me to do what I do.
If you are a musician young or old, whether you experience tinnitus or not, I would urge you to do what is necessary to protect your ears. You may not have ever had any problems before, or you may just be starting to experience them. Whatever your current condition, don’t be like me and ignore the potential for problems. Be proactive.
I will write again in a week to give you an update. In the meantime, your healing thoughts and prayers are appreciated. And if you know anyone who might benefit from any of this, please feel free to share it.