I am afflicted.

I have tinnitus. It’s only in my right ear. Despite its constant manifestation, it doesn’t bother me that much. I’m to blame for it, almost certainly. Countless live shows, too much time standing in front of giant amplifiers, too much caffeine. They can all cause it. I don’t care. It’s not going to kill me.

I notice it most at times like this, when the house is quiet. The hum of the fridge, the occasional drip in the faucet, and a near-constant ringing in my ear. They are all signs that the kid, the wife, and the dog are nestled in quiet slumber while I sit in front of an artificial world. The ringing reminds me that only part of what I see is real. It doesn’t, however, tell me which part.

When everything is noisy and active, it’s easy to ignore the ringing. This afternoon, the wife had gone to work out. I stood watching my roux turn from white, to blond, to brown. My whisk didn’t stop moving. Fear of a burned roux was the only thing keeping me going. All the while, the boy pounded with a wooden spoon on an overturned pot.

“Daddy, I am making the perfect drum,” he said, as if it were the most natural goal in the world.

“Who told you to make the perfect drum?” I said, making sure the roux wasn’t sticking to the pan.


It’s easy to get caught up in the noise. It’s so simple to ignore the constant ringing in favor of sounds that make us feel better. When the back beat is perfect, tapping one’s foot is almost involuntary. It is as if we’re being led somewhere. It’s so much easier, and frankly, so much more fun to just roll with it. I like living in that world. It’s comfortable and had led me to more beautiful places than I ever thought I’d know.

Now, though, it’s quiet. Everyone is asleep. The music isn’t playing. All I hear are the clicks and clacks of my keyboard and a constant ringing in my ears. I know for sure that one of the noises means nothing.

As for the other, only time will tell.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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5 Responses

  1. It’s fun reading about you and your son interacting and learning from each other as he grows up. Amazing isn’t it? He listen’s to God and makes a perfect drum as instructed. Why don’t we listen as well? Dunno.

  2. Another of the great mysteries of modern medicine!

    It can go away on it’s own. Like any other nerve related issue, the healing process is totally up to your body itself.

    I was diagnosed with Tinnitis several years back. At the end of my VERY loud ‘listening’ and ‘playing’ days. In my case I literally woke up one morning about 19-20 months later, wondering why the house was so quiet.

    Reducing salt, volume levels and caffine is what they give the credit to.

    I hope you are just as lucky.

  3. Lifetime sufferer, 6 ear surgeries later and still half-deaf with ringing noises daily.

    People wonder why I seem aloof, half its because I can’t hear much, the other half because I can’t remember my drink count.

  4. Tinnitis or not, you hear things differently through the ears of your children, don’t you? Glad you are man enough to notice.

    Enjoy your day . . . and the silence. Or lack thereof.

    The Wife

  5. I have a close personal relationship with the aliens inside my head. They’ve composed volumes of avant-garde tone pieces worthy of intimate coffee houses, patchouli and cartons of Gauloises… if only they’d take a break from time to time!