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August 26, 2005 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Does everybody hear some sort of ringing in their ears when in total silence? Or is it just me?
posted by punkfloyd to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I do. And John Cage related this:

"It was at Harvard not quite forty years ago that I went into an anechoic [totally silent] chamber not expecting in that silent room to hear two sounds: one high, my nervous system in operation, one low, my blood in circulation..."

Whether it's the same tone or not I don't know.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 10:25 AM on August 26, 2005

Not everybody does, but it's most certainly not just you. It sounds to me like you have tinnitus, which is eminently treatable.
posted by cerebus19 at 10:26 AM on August 26, 2005

yeah, i got that too. should probably go get it checked out sometime.
posted by Hackworth at 10:27 AM on August 26, 2005

Me too, but it doesn't really bug me. And also, I'm rarely somewhere quiet enough to hear it, although this is reminding me of that commercial that Tony Randall did about tinnitus and it made me miss him a little.
posted by Kimberly at 10:34 AM on August 26, 2005

I'm a youngin, and even I get it occasionally. But I usually can enjoy total silence when it's avaliable.
posted by Citizen Premier at 10:47 AM on August 26, 2005

And... er... this is kinda a dumb website... but sometimes it's helpful for things like that.
posted by Citizen Premier at 10:49 AM on August 26, 2005

I think any kind of ringing in your ears qualifies as tinnitus; if it's a bother, then you "have tinnitus" in the disease sense, if you follow. Not everybody gets it, no.
posted by abcde at 11:01 AM on August 26, 2005

Though in mild capacities it is very common - incidentally, if you get ringing in your ears after a concert it's a sign of (often minor) hearing damage, especially if it lasts.
posted by abcde at 11:04 AM on August 26, 2005

I've got tinnitus, but it doesn't bother me. Most of the time I tune it out. Sometimes it's just kind of a high ringing, and sometimes (oddly) it's almost as if someone in a room far down the hall is playing an AM radio. Sounds like sort of low muffled voices. It freaked me out as a teenager when I first noticed it and didn't know the cause.

The cause, by the way, was too many loud rock shows and too much headphone use.
posted by Miko at 11:08 AM on August 26, 2005

I have it too - and I went to an audiologist who I know personally. He took me into his booth and tested my hearing. He said it was pretty near perfect. So, whatever the ringing is (and mine seems to be pretty loud at times) it isn't necessarily anything to worry about.
posted by crapples at 11:11 AM on August 26, 2005

It sounds to me like you have tinnitus, which is eminently treatable.

Really? How?
posted by timeistight at 11:13 AM on August 26, 2005

I'd like to hear how too (npi). According to the ENT, mine is from high frequency loss (which could have many causes) and is essentially not treatable.
posted by sevenless at 11:21 AM on August 26, 2005

I don't hear ringing. I don't know anyone who does. I thought hearing noises that weren't there was a sign of some kind of... problem... or something.

The cause of tinnitus is usually unknown, and most people with tinnitus never find out why they have it. It is equally common in men and women and can be associated with almost any disorder of the ear.

Yeah. It's not normal, and we don't know how to fix it.
posted by ewkpates at 11:39 AM on August 26, 2005

I'm just wondering if you happen to fly a lot? Tinnitus is a common ailment with frequent flyers. If u happened to fly with a slight cold or allergies, it can catch up with you as tinnitus.
posted by GoodJob! at 11:50 AM on August 26, 2005

Sorry, when I said "treatable," I really ought to have found a better way to express what I meant. I meant to say that there are effective ways of dealing with tinnitus, some of which involve treatment and some of which don't.

I apologize for my poor word choice.
posted by cerebus19 at 11:54 AM on August 26, 2005

I saw a show years ago that said that in a silent room you'll actually hear the air molecules hitting your eardrum as a sort of ringing. So, there is that.
posted by LordSludge at 12:14 PM on August 26, 2005

crapples, do you have any sinus problems? My tinnitus kicks in when I have allergy-related pressure in my eustachian tubes. Sometimes it happens when I've had a spike of sugar and/or caffeine.
posted by kimota at 12:19 PM on August 26, 2005

I have the same problem. I always have to have music, the computer, the fan, or something on to create some kind of white noise. Just as long as there is something barely audible, no ringing in the ears. But, yea, when there is dead silence, I get the buzzing/ringing/something in my ears. Like last night, I laid down to read but forgot to turn on the fan...within a little while, the ringing in my ears due to the dead silence was driving me insane. I just chalk it up to a history of ear problems (tubes 3x, tons of ears infections, busted ear drum, too much loud music, etc) and just hearing my own circulation. Or something. Plus, my ears get clogged up very easily (thin ear canal) so that may have something to do with it.
I also thought I was having hearing loss, but last two times, my hearing is just fine- too much frickin' wax!
posted by jmd82 at 12:26 PM on August 26, 2005

I get that too, and I've had it as long as I can remember. I'm 21 now, and I remember noticing a high-pitched ringing in otherwise dead silence very early in childhood — early enough that I can't pinpoint a year. I'd never thought to see a doctor or even ask anyone about it, though.
posted by zztzed at 12:35 PM on August 26, 2005

I used to have it, although I only noticed it when things were totaly silent. If I left my desktop PC running, I couldn't hear it.

Lately though, I havn't been noticing it, even with no sound sources in my bedroom (Only very rarely did I notice it during the day).

William Shatner has it, btw.
posted by delmoi at 12:42 PM on August 26, 2005

I don't hear ringing. I don't know anyone who does. I thought hearing noises that weren't there was a sign of some kind of... problem... or something.

This is the reason why tinnitus almost always goes without diagnosis and treatment. People are understandably hesitant to go to a doctor and say "I hear noises I can't explain."

Thanks to a lot of awareness-raising during the last 20 years, the understanding that this is physiological is much more common. But many more people suffer from it than know what it is.
posted by Miko at 1:30 PM on August 26, 2005

I have mild tinnitus myself, as do most people who live in cities. In six years, I never found anywhere I could even notice it in Manhattan over the omnipresent background noise. Now that I'm in SF, I can sometimes hear it in bed at night if the neighbors have turned their TV off.

Every person's hand shakes a little bit if you have them hold it out - this is called 'physiologic tremor' and it's not noticeable in healthy folks. Do people also have a physiologic level of tinnitus that is normal?

I tend to think so, but the textbooks say differently. Being sensory and hence subjective, it's hard to know for sure.
posted by ikkyu2 at 2:36 PM on August 26, 2005

"Ringing" is the description used for tinnitus, but I was told that if you visit an anechoic chamber - a highly soundproofed room - you will hear a noise. That noise is, or so I was told, the rushing of blood. Normally we cannot hear that noise, although I must say that in the most silent rooms I do suddenly become aware of the sounds inside my own head. Or perhaps that's just me.
posted by skylar at 6:07 PM on August 26, 2005

I have had tinnitus since I was a kid, and it has contributed to a near-lifelong problem with insomnia. I recently moved to a new town and am sharing a house, so I now have my computer in my bedroom, fairly near my bed. It is always on, and so the fan is going night and day.

This white noise masks my tinnitus and I sleep better now than I can ever remember having slept before.
posted by solid-one-love at 6:36 PM on August 26, 2005

There are white noise machines available at most stores now. In addition to masking my tinnitus, I find that it helps to mask a lot of neighborhood noise that would normally wake me up.
posted by stefanie at 8:12 PM on August 26, 2005

I don't hear ringing. I hear a constant very very very high pitch sound wave. But I've had my hearing checked a few times, and it's perfect--even the upper register, so clearly it's not negatively affecting my normal life. Super-quiet rooms bug the shit out of me, though, so I normally keep a fan on.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:42 PM on August 26, 2005

That's what I hear, too, Civ.
posted by solid-one-love at 9:26 PM on August 26, 2005

Yeah, I hear the same high pitched tone in silent places. That's been true for as long as I can remember. I had horrible insomnia as a kid, until my parents got me a fan, which worked. I have to have it to sleep well (or, really, at all) just for the white noise. Caused some awful disagreements with my freshman year college roomate, who couldn't sleep well with the fan on.
posted by Chanther at 9:45 PM on August 26, 2005

I had this bad after an unfortunate childhood incident with a firecracker. Lasted for months - a loud buzzing. "Ringing" didn't do it justice.

These days I'm basically fine, though I must have had some hearing damage from that. After loud concert I have some humming but it dies down. A few days in a really quiet place and I have no ringing at all.
posted by scarabic at 11:34 PM on August 26, 2005

sometimes fluid in the ears from allergies/sinus probs will cause this, and a decongestant can clear it up.
posted by craniac at 9:14 AM on August 27, 2005

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