If you haven’t seen the recent movie Baby Driver (Starring Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, and Jon Bernthal) I’ll wait right here while you go watch it. Oh, you’re back already? Oh, you didn’t have time to watch it and need a brief synopsis for background of this blog post? I mean, I can do that, but do yourself a favor and watch it sometime (I realize it will NEVER live up to my incomparable description and synopsis, but you really should give the artists their due since they worked SO hard, LOL). That being said, I guess for this post to continue, I’m going to have to give you a synopsis, huh? Well, I guess I’ll give the obligatory:
*MILD SPOILER ALERT*
Still here? You’re SURE you’re okay with some minor spoilers? Okay then, I warned you. Baby Driver is the story of a getaway car driver named Baby. Yep, that’s his name. Well, that’s what everyone calls him anyways. As a child, Baby was in a car accident that killed his mother that damaged his hearing in a tremendous way (he didn’t get any superpowers, that’s that Daredevil guy and that involved some radioactive materials). After his accident (which killed his mother and put him on the path toward crime) he found that he had Tinnitus. Tinnitus is a condition by which sufferers hear a constant high-pitched ringing in their ear ALL THE TIME. To offset his Tinnitus, he constantly has earbuds from an iPod in his ears playing music, much like his own internal soundtrack. Let me give you an example with the following video:
Exciting huh? Kinda funny at the same time? Well, Kelly and I loved it. The whole movie is filled with phenomenal choices of music (the tagline of the movie is: “All you need is one killer track.” – see what they did there? Track? Goes for both a race track AND a music track. Clever, clever indeed). The director of the movie, Edgar Wright, said that he has always wanted to do a movie where the music dictated what happened. The music often was the centerpiece and it often felt like an action/musical. It was definitely a mission accomplished. The movie was high-energy and even contained a love story.
Now that you’re familiar with Baby and his world, that allows me to tell you how it relates to mine. You see, I have Tinnitus (listen to that in your head like Darth Vader telling Luke he’s his father – Friends, I have Tinnitus – you did it in your head didn’t you?). Mine is NOWHERE near as bad as Baby’s is in the movie. Mine is a low-grade, constant, high-pitch. Some people report that theirs is a crackling, others like a constant crumpling of paper. Here’s an example of what mine sounds like:
Interestingly, I didn’t even know I had it. Kelly and I were at home one evening and the subject of silence somehow came up. During that conversation I said something to the effect of, “You know, when it’s completely quiet and all you can hear is that really high-pitch noise?” With a quick look at her face, I knew very quickly that we both had very different views of what silence was. You know the look, the one your wife gives you when you know you’ve said something that’s not right (I get that look all the time, because let’s face it, I say stupid stuff all the time). She immediately said something to the effect of “Babe, that’s not how it should be.” And we began to talk about how I didn’t know that wasn’t normal. At her encouragement, I had hearing tests, which was when I found out that I had Tinnitus.
As far back as I can remember, that has been my version of silence. That high-pitched sound always permeated silence for me. I can’t remember a time in my life that it wasn’t there. I just thought it was normal. I always thought that silence was a strange word for it when there was still noise involved. Worst thing about it? I have NO idea what caused it. Could be genetic. Could be over exposure to loud noise (but having remembered it all my life, I doubt that one). The only thing I really know is, I always knew I didn’t like it. For those of you that do know me well, you know I have never liked silence. I ALWAYS have something on. Some kind of input of sound that is flowing around me. I always have something on like a TV, or movie playing in the background, but most often, it’s music. I have an obsession with music. When I work, I typically have movie scores playing (the collected works of John Williams is phenomenal – from Jaws to Star Wars to Harry Potter, that dude has a firm grip on the greatest movie scores of all time). These things have always helped me to focus and I didn’t know they were offsetting my condition. I didn’t realize that I was unconsciously mitigating the sound that is always in my ears. I found a great description of it from Dr. LaGuinn Sherlock, a clinical audiologist currently researching the effects of tinnitus on concentration, who works with the American Tinnitus Association (ATA). She compares dealing with tinnitus to a candle: “Picture a dark room, if you add one candle to the room, you’ll notice it immediately. If we light a candle in a room full of light, we don’t really notice it.” In essence, tinnitus is a sense of noise that fills a missing gap, even when there’s nothing there to cause it.
Kevin Spacey’s character in the movie describes Baby’s condition as a “hum in the drum” and that is a very accurate depiction of it for me. The worst part of finding out about my condition though, is now, I notice it. It’s great knowing what that sound is when things are silent, but it’s also a curse knowing that it’s not normal. Now when silence settles in for me, it’s not silence. I hear IT. It causes me to have some mild hearing difficulties, like at a ball game, even sitting beside you, I’ll have trouble hearing you. In a crowded room with lots of noise or conversations, I’ll have difficulties hearing you (and I’m sorry if I just nod my head because there’s times I don’t want to constantly say “What?” or “I can’t hear you.”) I know that I definitely have it much better than some people that have this condition. For some people, it’s louder, much louder. As mentioned before, for some people it’s a constant crackle or static like a radio station you can’t pick up. Suicide rates are higher among people that suffer from Tinnitus. Divorce rates are higher. Crime Rates are higher. When you can’t concentrate, it generally makes life more difficult.
I realize that there’s a whole lot more going on in life that is much worse than what I deal with in this area. What I would say is, forgive me in advance if I annoy you with my insatiable need for noise. It helps me to focus on life. I don’t mean to annoy you with my constant talk of albums (I’m a collector of vinyl records for the uninitiated and will have another blog post about that soon), speaking with gusto about my latest find, or if I have headphones in, it’s not to shut you out, but rather to help me concentrate on the task at hand. The noise keeps me going, and that’s okay.
Still interested or interested in knowing more? Let me know and I can direct you to some great articles.