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. . . in a good way I hope, but I know there’s lots of hard work ahead.

Right-ho piggles, as I usually say to myself in my head as I get down to work. Don’t ask me why – the “piggles” just sounds right for galvanising myself with serious determination. I want to capture what I do and why I do  it before life changes forever (and for the better I hope).

I have tinnitus: mild, gentle tinnitus most of the time, except when I’m poorly, or that lovely Yorkshire word, “dowly” (out of sorts, depressed). It started off sounding like a class of kids chattering away, but it’s faded over the years to a sort of gentle whooshing noise. It only really changes to a mournful beeping or a loud, insistent, swirling, beeping noise in tune with the atmospheric conditions: external – wind and cold; internal – my health or state of mind. It can get really intrusive if I can’t sleep but my strategy with that is usually to synchronise it with my heartbeat or to make up a little rhythm and force it to tune into that rhythm until it becomes less annoying.

It’s so long since I actually heard anyone I can’t even imagine hearing again.I seem to sort of use my tinnitus somehow when I’m out and about, and it’s instantaneous in its effects. You know how, when you read, you “say” that word in your head? It’s a bit like that. When anyone talks to me, I give them a sort of generic male or female voice in my head, modified by the accents I can lipread – The Bear, my husband, has a soft Durham inflection. If I’m in the pub, the classroom hubbub resurfaces, but as soon as I home in on people who are talking, “eavesdropping” on their conversations, I give them the appropriate voice again. When a car comes up behind me, obviously I haven’t heard it from behind, but as it passes me and hence into my vision, I give it a WHHOOOSH as it goes past.  I don’t really modify things from the generic unless I can see or feel something different – a powerful motorbike, that I can feel, will probably more likely be RRRRRRRRHHHHHH in my head as it goes past. When I watch the Last Night of the Proms or the Viennese Neujahrskonzert and they home in on particular instruments it’s mostly a rhythmic beat that will be slightly more pinging or quavering for string instruments, whistling for flutes, deep booming sounds for the tuba, and tinkling tapping noises for the piano. The tapping I do on the keyboard – I feel it so intimately that I just KNOW what the clackety-clack noise sounds like, and that my home computer sounds different from my work computer. I don’t *hear* any of this.

I wonder now whether this imaginative strategy will help me to intuit new sounds, or whether it will hinder me. Is it aural memory gone mad, or is it just a case of, I know by what I can see and feel? It’s really weird, and I’m scared that if my tinnitus goes my auditory memory might go with it and I’ll find it harder!

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