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July 22, 2008 | 13 Comments

Mr. Keillor,
I am a recent college graduate and have been a tinnitus sufferer for the last 15 months. I, too, have found only the sound of cicadas to be a comforting masking. My T has turned my world upside down, so I'm encouraged and thankful for how you manage to continually bring joy and laughter to all of us. I love listening to your show.

Jayne S.

That eternal ringing in the ears can be an irritation, Jayne, but maybe it's some sort of spur, too, to do things that engage us to the point of not noticing tinnitus. As you know, there is no cure for this sort of nerve damage—I tried acupuncture and herbal medicine, no luck—so one simply must live with it. I never notice it during a show or rehearsal so there's one more reason to keep doing. It's bothersome to a writer but it can be masked with music, particularly vocal music. That Faure Requiem I have heard so many times, it's a wonder the words don't creep into the Lake Wobegon stories, a little boy soprano singing "Pie Jesu" in Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility Church. As always when one's world is turned upside down, it doesn't hurt to talk to a therapist, but I recommend perseverance and reality-avoidance. And if you find a cure, be sure to let me know.


Tinnitus sufferers unite!
The most disturbing thing about
that "noise" in the ears is that
other people don't understand.It
took me from 1982 to 1984, and many
trips to UCLA medical center, to finally
find a doctor who believed me!

I try to explain it's like the way
ears feel after attending
a rock music concert, where you've
stood next to the speakers for three
hours (and I suspect that's the
reason for the tinnitus!).

I've found one bonus, though -- the
"noise" is
so loud in my left ear, if I'm trying
to sleep and there is ambient noise,
like the neighbor's partying or my
husband listening to late night
football scores, I just turn over
on my right ear and can't hear a thing
except the "noise."

There's always a "bright side," don't
you think?

San Clemente

My own tinnitus has been very reminiscent of the after effects of attending a Black Sabath concert way back in the 1970s.

I've experienced some relief after receiving acupucture from a therapist experienced in treating tinnitus sufferers.

I'm sorry to hear (no pun intended) about the tinnitus. I'm not a sufferer myself, but I did, a couple of years ago, have the temerity to compose the following doggeral:

With Apologies to E.A. Poe

Do you hear the phone?
Get the phone!
Oh, wait! That cursed ringing
Isnít just some new ring tone.
It's this new, unending jingle--
Not a pingle nor a dingleó
That's imparted a queer tingle
As it mingles in my ear.
Itís a ring-a-tingy-tinging
And inside my head itís singing
Less a bonging than a binging
That inside my head is clinging
Like a head upon a beer.
Now, I think I know the answer
To what caused this aural cancer,
Just what sort of necromancer
Was advancing its career:
Iíve got a case of the tinnitus in my ear, ear, ear, ear, ear, ear, ear.
Just the tinny-tin tinnitus in my ear.

Dear Len,
I am posting your poem
on my bathroom mirror.

Whenever I am "down from
the sound," I will read
it! Thanks.
(Tony -- for me it was
Eric Burdon and the Animals!).
San Clemente

Mr. Garrison, I'm another sufferer, probably because I stood too close to the speakers in too many concerts, and when I lived in Brooklyn, would stoicly sit there when the subway train made a right angle bend before plunging under the East River, if I remember correctly. My contribution to the masking sounds is that I have found recordings of ocean waves and of rain to be useful. I am glad to hear about the cicadas. We used to have lots of them here in the south, but all these years of drought have reduced their numbers significantly.

It's 4am near downtown Louisville. I sit on my front porch and cicadas have, all day, made me feel I still live in the country. They do more for me to feel solitude and 'at home' than any home-cooking urban restaurant can.

Thank you so much for your inspiring encouragement. I am a musician, and I also noticed that in rehearsals and performances of recent musicals, I also, am magically transported to somewhere special so that I don't notice it. Most thankfully, I want to work with choirs as my career. But if I do find some earthly cure, I will most certainly let you know.

The Faure Requiem certainly is wonderful. I also recommend the Rutter Requiem for tinnitus relief. Also, I recommend the Treasures of English Church Music purely for pleasure.

Thanks for sharing your story. I've had tinnitus for as long as I can remember. What I don't remember is falling out of the grocery cart and landing on my head, which Mom says happened when I was two. That is probably when it started. What I hear is like two high-pitched tuning forks constantly sounding. I've had to take several hearing tests throughout my working life, and it can interfere, but I've passed all the tests.

Cicadas, here in the south, are so flippin loud you have to yell to be heard. I'd like my normal Midwestern bugs back, please, instead of the economy-sized mutants they have down here!

It's too late for any of us to stop the ringing in our ears, but it's not too late for us to help our children and grandchildren take steps to avoid tinnitus.

We are (rightly) vigilant about slathering our kids with sunscreen before they go outdoors. Let's also make sure they have earplugs before they mow the lawn or go to a loud concert.

I'm mostly with you, Garrison, when you lament about our overprotectiveness with kids these days. But the world gets noisier every year, and we pay little attention to it. Hearing protection is one area where a little caution can prevent suffering later in life.

And as far as cicadas are concerned: for me, they just seem to make the ringing in my ears louder and the summer heat hotter!

The medical profession and I cannot come up w/any reason for me to have tinnitis. My father was bothered by it from his early adult years and he didn't know about skin cancer and the sun but he figured out the exposure to loud manufacturing equipment and his ears--so we was always protective of his children's hearing.

However, accupunture has given me the most relief. Finding the correct "form" of accupunture is the trick, so don't give up if one "kind" didn't work for you. My physician actually places needles in several points around and in my ears. Doesn't hurt in the least (as opposed to him putting them into my neuopathic toes which feel like someone usually has them plugged into the electric outlet). A good chiroprator is also a tremendous help. However, they all work differently so you must find the "healers" which work best for your body. I can honestly go for several days w/out trying to answer the phone, which isn't ringing.

Mr. Keillor,

We have a new tinnitis program at the Columbus Speech & Hearing Center to help people suffering (or just really annoyed) by tinnitis. Give our audiology department a call at (614) 263-5151. We're in Columbus, Ohio.

Enjoy a glass of favorite (Red) wine occasionally.The tinnitus is actually a bit more noticeable, but I don't care! Cheers.

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