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The Ringing In My Ears Is Driving Me Crazy

The Ringing In My Ears Is Driving Me Crazy

I still remember the hot summer night in 1983, when I was in the Albuquerque Police Academy. The range staff member was telling us that we needed to be prepared if we were ever in a gunfight. With that in mind he told us to remove our hearing protection.

“What did you say? Can you repeat that?”

After 20-some years in law enforcement my hearing sucks, really sucks.

I knew my hearing was going downhill back in 2002 when the city of Albuquerque had me take a hearing test. I went to the basement of City Hall, where a city wellness center was located. I met a nice guy who explained how the test would work.

“Raise the hand in the ear that you hear the tone in,” he said. Left hand means left ear. Easy. I can do this.

He then had me sit in the hearing test room and put the earphones on. I was ready to ace this test.

Once the ear phones were on I realized that I have a loud, very loud, ringing in my ears. Listening intently, I started raising my hands as I thought I was hearing the tones. Left hand up, right hand up. I figured I was acing the test.

The door to the testing booth opened and the guy administering the test motioned for me to take my headphones off. “Are you hearing the tones?” he asked, smiling. “Yes,” I responded. “How am I doing?”

“I am not sure, I haven’t started the test yet,” he replied.

I think he wanted to bust out laughing, but he kept it professional. “You should go to a hearing doctor,” he said. “You could use hearing aids.”

Of course, I never went, not for 15 more years.

With that I had to admit my hearing is not good. That was 15 years ago when I was 41. How did this happen? My mom doesn’t use hearing aids and my dad only needed them later in life.

I still remember the hot summer night in 1983, when I was in the Albuquerque Police Academy. It was a low-light shoot, so we were at the police range (then located south of the airport) in total darkness. The range staff member was telling us that we needed to be prepared if we were ever in a gunfight. With that in mind he told us to remove our hearing protection.

Imagine 33 police riot shotguns, loaded with 12 gauge slugs, all being shot at the same time. My ears rang for two or three weeks after that, but it looked really cool at night. Of course, the instructors kept their ear protection on. I wonder why?

Flash forward three years and I am walking in the parking lot of the Southeast substation. An officer calls me over to his car to show me his new shotgun. Standing in-between two police cars he hands me his shotgun. I decline, telling him it was a model I was unfamiliar with. Therefore, I didn’t want to handle it.

“Don’t worry, it’s empty,” he said. Then the gun went off. The pellets hit the ground inches away from my right foot.

This time I couldn’t hear at all. It’s like someone turned a switch and shut my ears off and turned on a loud ringing noise. My hearing came back in a few days, but the ringing has never left.

These are just two incidents where events in my career bless me now with unintended consequences.

My wife is very patient, with helping me hear. I appreciate her immensely.

But I recently decided to go for a hearing exam and get this fixed. Why should I burden my wife, right?

The woman doing the exam was wonderful. She explained everything, and during the exam she removed a ball of wax from my right ear that was causing a roaring noise.

Long story short: my hearing still sucks, no surprise there. Fitted for hearing aids, I left the office expecting a miracle I suppose. What I found was that Isaac Newton was right. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

I could hear, but there was a trade-off. The ringing in my ears got louder, a lot louder.

They call it tinnitus.

It’s been my friend for decades. Always there, but at a level that I could just ignore it, usually.

With hearing aids, I could hear better, but the opposite reaction was that the ringing in my ears was so loud it was now distracting. There is no magic bullet once your ears are damaged.

I had to weigh using hearing aids and having ringing that is so distracting that it was giving me headaches and causing me to miss conversations. Or don’t use hearing aids and definitely miss conversations, but the ringing is at a level that I have come to accept.

Either way I will never have good hearing. And that is why I am writing this. I didn’t want to hear what you have to say anyway.

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Dan Klein

Dan Klein is a retired Albuquerque police sergeant. Reach him via Facebook and Twitter via @dankleinabq.

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Johnny Vizcaino is an editorial intern at ABQ Free Press Weekly.

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