I love music. I love playing it and I love listening to it. I can't really go out and enjoy it anymore, though. In fact, I've only been to two shows last year and paid dearly for it. You see, I have this terrible problem. I have tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a condition where your ears are always ringing, the end result of too many loud bands, records, etc. creating permanent damage to your ear drums. After playing in bands for over 22 years and attending concerts for longer than that, my hearing is pretty blown out. I'm not alone, either. Pete Townsend, Neil Young and Barbara Streisand, among others, suffer from the same syndrome.
How did I get tinnitus? It comes from years of giving and receiving. Receiving means over 45 years of standing in front of the stage at shows by The Sex Pistols, Roxy Music, Patti Smith, Captain Beefheart, Queen and thousands of other noise addicts. Half these shows had me standing right by the speakers, and if I had to do it all over again, I would.
Giving means playing free jazz sax squall over a bed of not one, not two, but three distorted guitars turned all the way up to 10 and beyond. Wearing earplugs was never an option. I had to feel the vibrations shaking through my bones and tearing out my heart. I wasn’t some Adam Levine careerist dickhead, I was on a suicide mission to get my noise music played.
There are times when I can phase out the ringing, and then there are times when I can't. Sometimes I'll wake up at 3:30 in the morning and the ringing will be in full blast, like I just stepped out of a nightclub. It's pretty strange. My ears are ringing loudly as I’m sitting here writing,. But as I said, I can also ignore it, just as you would any annoying bit of sound.
I've been to the doctor and he said there's nothing wrong with my hearing. “That’ll be $three hundred dollars, thank you". All Western medical solutions are out. I may consider acupuncture if it works, but otherwise it's going to be this high pitched ring for a long time.
So, all you Facebook die-hard rockers, don't get pissed if I pass on invitations to your shows. And by the way, buy my books. Support is a two-way street.
The ability to hear is highly overrated, anyway. I was at the neighborhood laundromat, and it’s a reasonably small, modest one. It has the questionable perk of having not one, but two television sets. Both televisions were turned to the same program with the volume turned up very, very loud.
The television show that night was one of those Real Housewives programs where the women scream and bitch-slap each other for the better part of half an hour. It seemed longer than thirty minutes; quite frankly it felt like an eternity. It’s very hard to concentrate on folding your newly dried wash while both your ear canals are being pummeled by the shrill fighting of overly made-up women screaming their heads off.
I quickened the pace of my folding as I heard two, no, maybe three women shrieking and ruining their nails by raking them over each other’s faces, realizing that if I were truly deaf this would just look like inmates from a mental institution having it out. I would just move along, nothing to see here.
Well, the gals were still going at it like a vaginal demolition derby as I marched with my clothes out of the place, making a mental note to never go to the laundromat on a Wednesday night. Wednesday night’s not alright for fighting.
For more information about tinnitus, go to the American Tinnitus Association site at http://www.ata.org/