I’ve had tinnitus most of my life.
It all started with a trip to a HamFest with my parents. A HamFest is essentially an organized garage sale for radio nerds, and this one was held at the Boulder National Guard armory back in the early 70’s.
I was wandering around looking at the junk on offer and spotted what looked like a tape deck. The guy selling it asks if I’d like to have a listen, I say yes, and he hooks it up and puts the headphones on my noggin…
Upon powering up the device makes this tortured electronic screech through the headphones that’s loud enough my mom hears it outside.
There’s a small freakout, but I can still hear people so I’m deemed to be okay. The ringing in my ears is shrugged off as “it’ll pass” and life carries on. It was the early 70’s — people didn’t sue other people for looking at them crossways and kids were made of sterner stuff.
Since that day, if it’s quiet I get a high-pitched whistle in my head that I have trained myself to not focus on. If I do, it quickly becomes oppressive and I need to forcefully move my focus to something else.
Well, they say as you get older tinnitus gets worse — and they’re right. These days I have that infernal whistle in the background 24/7 and I have to keep some sort of background noise going all of the time… Which as an I.T. professional is pretty easy as there’s always AC, server fans, drive noise, etc., etc. in my environment.
But at night it’s different…
For the last ten years or so I’ve had a fan running in my room for the white noise, but as winter comes around this becomes less of a good idea. I’ve tried to replace the fan with music in the past, but the breaks between tracks will wake me up. I’ve also tried a few “sound machines”, but the machines are very looped and I pick up on the repetition in about 15 minutes. Once that happens, I start listening for the loop instead of the sound and I can’t sleep…
But technology marches on and things improve… So, I decided to try the latest high-tech gizmo — and yesterday my new “Sound+Sleep SE” arrived.
This is basically a nightstand radio that has 64 channels — all of them tuned to environmental soundscapes.
I turned the big knob to “Meadow” last night and for the first time in weeks I slept the entire night. “Meadow” consists of crickets, an owl out there in the trees, a breeze rustling the grass and leaves, rain patter, and a small brook somewhere in the distance. And what makes this machine different is it procedurally generates the sound from pieces — so it’s not repetitive.
The down-side (there’s always a down-side) is the machine gets a lot of reviews about it failing after a couple of weeks to a month. Either the amplifier craps out and it develops a static hum, or the memory in it fragments and the sound samples stop working.
Hopefully I got a good one, because with my sample size of one night — it works.