S Sorrensen’s Here & Now: Resisting the sirens

Image S Sorrensen

My place. Wednesay, 5.30am

Today, I feel like getting real. I have been talking to you for many years, dear reader, about this and that. I always write about what’s on my mind at the time. Like climate change. (Oh no, S, not again…)

This morning, sitting in my shack under the cliffs, another awful reality engulfs me, almost to the point of overwhelm. What is this terrible reality? It’s tinnitus.

As I stare into the computer screen, like I do every week to write this column, an empty word document open in front of me, allowing my mind to wander through its thoughts, my fingers poised over the keyboard, I have to tell you that, today, my mind, my entire consciousness, is cling-wrapped like Woolworths zucchinis in an suffocating sound that pervades my universe as completely as the bellbirds’ ringing outside my window pervades the forest.

That sound in my head is not the tolling of a bellbird signalling a forest’s demise,

but a whistling, shrieking sound that, right now, signals the destruction of me.

Okay, that’s dramatic, I know, but that’s how I feel.

Sipping coffee after another restless night, these words appear on the screen before me. These words are my connection to you. They are a mooring line holding me from drifting into wild seas. Right now, they are a lifeline to sanity.

Over the last few years, since the tinnitus’s onset, I have seen two ENT specialists. They have nothing to say about tinnitus except there is no cure and to just deal with it. I have seen audiologists who offered me hearing aids (with bluetooth connectivity, woohoo!). I was so desperate I bought them. They didn’t help. (But I could listen to a podcast of Plato’s Dialogues while chatting with cafe friends.)

It’s a battle. Sometimes, I feel I’m holding the enemy back. They shriek and scream at the gate, but I fight them with distraction and behaviour therapy. Other times, like now, fatigued and weak, I hear them storm the walls, breech the gate, and I don’t where to run…

Friends can help at times like these. But they don’t understand. Only tinnitus sufferers can. As there are no objective symptoms that can be measured, tinnitus is invisible to friends and allopathy alike. Tinnitus has taught me we really cannot understand the pain of others. Tinnitus has taught me empathy.

Valium is my last resort. When my castle is being overrun, when I’m exhausted from continuous combat and my defences are beaten, when anxiety runs through my body, a screeching horde through the alleyways of my ears, diazepam is a little room in which I take shelter, a little room in which there is hope that the invasion will not be complete, that anxiety doesn’t become annihilation.

Tinnitus is a disability on the rise in our noisy society, but it has a long history. Three and a half thousand years ago, the Egyptians wrote on papyrus about the ‘bewitched ear’. The Assysrians wrote of three different types of tinnitus (whispering, speaking, singing) 2700 years ago. Pliny the Elder, a Roman scholar from 2000 years ago, recommended sticking earthworms boiled in goose fat in your ears as a cure.

I haven’t tried the earthworms, but I have tried everything from tumeric overdose to cranial manipulation, from tissue salts to acupuncture. But, there isn’t a cure, only survival.

So, yeah, this column is all about me. Indulgent? Probably. But speaking to you, dear reader, has made me feel better. As the sun rises, you have helped me push the enemy back to the gate. Thank you.

Tinnitus sufferers need to talk to people who understand. Try

Face your enemy. Arm yourself with knowledge. I reckon the Tinnitus Association, Victoria ( has good information.

Tinnutis cannot destroy you, only isolation and fear can.

Now to dig for earthworms…


7 responses to “S Sorrensen’s Here & Now: Resisting the sirens”

  1. Pieter Verasdonck says:

    Hi S
    Sorry about my quip the other day. I thought comparing you with Bob Dylan was a compliment, but it came out wrong. I suffer too from Tinnitus, but much less so than before. It comes and goes. It could be painfully annoying, psychological torture, but now it is less and and frequent. So what is the trick, you ask? Well, the same as the point I was trying to make unsuccessfully with my consumerist Dylan jibe. When you are a consumer, you suffer the ills of the consumption society. I had to take blood pressure pills for years and my already existing tinnitus increased, my digestion upset etc… Now I am free of pills and over tinnites, because I navigate daily life without coffee, wine, smokes, beer etc. (Not working helps!) I survive wonderfully on herbal teas like Chamomile and Hibiscus. There may be a world free of anxiety in the afterlife, but while on Earth it pays to remember that what we eat (and drink) is what we become. You should be free of anxiety, because you are a marvelous writer loved by many, whose works on Earth are a true blessing. I think of tinnitus now as the noise the Earth makes rotating, and only consumers hear it. We are not solving climate change until we stop consuming shit. You often speak of heartbreak hotel lonelyness in your dispatches. Kabir says that we are lonely until we find God is in us. Perhaps it’s time to have a talk to Darak about the Holy Spirit. Communion is our birthright.

  2. Liz Friend says:

    My partner has tinnitis for over 20 years (probably through coral in the ear / surfing). He always makes a hot water bottle and puts it behind his neck/ears to dull the ringing in the early morning. I rub his ear – the one that is the loudest. He said it drove him mad until he had to learn how to live with it, otherwise he WOULD go mad! I know a lot of musicians who have it too. Just terrible. Feel for you.

  3. serena ballerina says:

    My tinnitus sounds like a forest full of cicadas.
    (I blame too many loud live concerts in my earlier life….leaving a show with ears ringing. Why they have to be so loud I don’t know. It’s like that now…there’ll be generations with hearing loss and tinnitus.)
    As I live surrounded by a forest full of cicadas or crickets, frogs, birds – and the sound of the wind in the treetops…I console, or convince myself, that I’m part of all that.
    For sure it’s worse to deal with in the quiet of night-time.
    It’s one more thing, along with the aches, pains and stiffness etc. we have to adapt to as we age….remembering to be thankful we have made it this far!

  4. I hear you brother !! Or should I say I can hear ‘smoke alarms ‘ going off in my ears !
    Yes empathy is all I can offer X X

  5. Marion says:

    I really sympathise with you for what you are going through. It must be the most annoying & perplexing affliction. By the way I’d like to see those words sipping coffee after another restless night.

    • S Sorrensen says:

      Ow. Well detected, Marion. I am putting the misalignment of phrase and sentence subject down to the tinnitus, not to sloppy writing.

  6. Anugraho says:

    Love you weekly input very much and feel sorry for your tinnitus. I have it too, first in one ear since many years and from about 4-5 years also in the other one, after an inflammation in the inner ear. I like a lot to run, just for fun, and the pleasure after the shower. I would like to share that I found a benefit in running. I have been thinking about why and the logic I found is that running your heart pumps more blood and with more pressure, hence it reaches much better in the small brain and ear’s capillaries where it would flow more slowly. So, it is not about running, but about a physical activity of a certain suitable intensity to be done with pleasure and regularly, which as a side effect improves blood circulation. Give it a try for a month and see. Hope it helps at least a bid.

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