Day of silence


Today Belgium holds the 'day of silence'. On their website I read about their 'annual campaign to address the value of slowing down, stillness and qualitative attention in the Flemish, Brussels and Dutch community'.

I can see the purpose: people who are participating in life all the way and are balancing work, family, social life and hobbies have to make time now and again to settle down, and silence has a big part in that.

I am going over their list of activities. They are very diverse and concern a silent breakfast, meditation, quiet walks and quiet experiences... You can even take part in 'tasting' silence.

Initially I had penned down that my silence taste bitter, but that's incorrect. 'Bitter' can taste nice. It feels bitter, that's different. Silence to me tastes -hmmmm, what has a bad flavor? I don't like acidity, but that doesn't describe it properly either.
My silence tastes burned!

Because I don't know any quiet anymore. Silence sounds deafening! If I would go looking for silence, all I would hear is a clear, high tone. 7000 hertz, perhaps even slightly higher. I cannot determine his intensity. If the sounds around the house are their usual low level (fridge humming, traffic noise outside, ...) he sounds louder. But I can still hear him when there is music playing in the background, when the family is chatting and even in the car.

He is difficult to camouflage, probably because he is so high pitched. I can find myself in a very noisy environment and still hear him. Rippling noise: whirring like the sea, babbling brooks ... is the most effective at suppressing him.

Yup, 'my noise' is a 'he'; I call it 'beep', but more often 'T'. T for tinnitus, because that's what it is.
And however much I long for silence... T is an attention whore, the quieter the surroundings are, the more he plays up!

At the same time he is a megalomaniac: because no matter how loud the environmental noise, he fights to stand out. And he doesn't know how to quit either: long after things have quietened down around me, he is still beeping to his heart's content!

T has a friend, called H. And H means Hyperacusis. They are inseparable! H makes me ill from sound. Noise makes me dizzy and nauseous. H makes the activity of listening an effort and wears me out perpetually. When I am in a noisy environment, I use hearing protection. However, this shouldn't block too much sound, or the T will be able to come through. With my ears plugged, my voice, breathing and even footsteps create a thundering noise in my head, that is like an echo chamber with very bad acoustics.

Life with T & H is a continuing search between silence and noise. I crave silence; I need silence to recover... but things are never quiet, not for me, not in my head. Since T doesn't have anything witty to say, I don't want to keep hearing him and try to obscure him with sounds of nature or a musical interlude. Not too loud though, or H hurries to make sure my body feels like it's on a roller coaster after eating a sizeable portion of doughnuts.

I don't just hear noise. I feel noise too. Certain frequencies like a low bass, pounding machines, ... far away and barely audible: I can feel them. I don't know if my body registers vibrations or what the exact mechanism is, but such frequencies are perceived by my brain as nauseating and dizzying.

When I fell ill 19 years ago, there was only one thing that I wanted: silence. I had just finished a book on quiet zones and was captivated by a quiet zone in the Vladslo area. 12 years ago, when I, as a guinea pig, had 2 electrodes introduced in my brain to try and suppress T, I had agreed with friends and family that my code message for a successful result would be 'greetings from Vladslo'. Regrettably, I wasn't able to send that message. Worldwide, doctors and scientists keep searching for ways to conquer T & H however.

I cheer the annual return of 'the day of silence'. Perhaps one day you'll find me meditating, in Vladslo.