A coworker was very alarmed to learn that my ears have been ringing non-stop for the past twenty years.
When I overheard him mention he’s been losing sleep because one of his ears won’t stop ringing and he couldn’t figure out why, I thought I’d rib him a little, throwing in my two cents by saying, “Oh, that’s called just getting old.” He wanted to know what I meant by that. “My ears ring all the time,” I said. “They’ve been ringing for years.”
“Wait, what? Not literally for years, right?”
“Well, yes. Literally, for years. It’s called tinnitus.”
So then he wanted to know what the ringing sounded like (like when your ears ring after a loud concert) and did I have it in just one ear, like he did (no, in both ears), and exactly how many years was I talking about? I couldn’t answer that last one without going back to my medical records, but when I told him I remembered joking about it with a friend who also had tinnitus back in 1998, he damn near cried. I felt pretty bad about that. I only meant to crack a joke about falling apart as we get older, you know, as you do. Based on his reaction, I would guess he’s still too young to have the gallows humor most people develop after their 50th birthday.