The Observer is about to hit the back slope of our 40s come this July, and as our dear old Pa and Granny and every other well-seasoned adult in our life tried to tell us back when we were in the carefree summer grasshopper portion of our existence, the idiot lights to our body are starting to wink on, one by one. 

At first it was just a nagging thing here or there, a weather elbow or achy back when we didn’t sleep just right. Lately, though, things have been accelerating. As we once heard a comic say: You know you’re in your 40s when the doctor starts using those magic words “There’s not much we can do about it.” We’ve hit the maintenance phase now, having lived all those years in the golden June when damn near everything you might have happen to you could be fixed by a pill or a powder, laying off the tater chips and beer for a while or getting a new pillow. Ah, the salad days!

If we’d have known it was going to count, we’d have probably eaten a few more salads.

The Observer doesn’t usually dish much in this space about the health buggaboos we’re going though. We’ve all got our problems after all, and many have it much, much worse than Yours Truly, so who are we to complain? Still, we offer the following as a PSA so you don’t manage to fall over the same cliff as Your Old Pal, the Fool Card made flesh, which appears to be our lot more and more. 

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See, what happened was back right before Thanksgiving. The Observer used a rotary spindle sander for about an hour. We’ve used that same damn sander for hours at a time before, a thousand times, just like we’ve used saws, routers, drills, mowers, grinders, vacuums, equipment of all sorts and horsepowers, whining at decibels from bearable to wine-glass-shattering. And in all the years we’ve been doing that, just like we did back in November with that spindle sander, The Observer used no hearing protection.

But ever since that day, for almost three months now as of this writing, every waking moment, every second, while driving or trying to cast off to sleep, reading a book or as we write these very words, The Observer has had a persistent ringing in our left ear.

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Depending on factors that we haven’t been able to quite puzzle out yet, though we’ve tracked and jotted down and journaled everything from barometric pressure to daily salt intake to the amount of caffeine we’ve swallowed to keep us upright, the sound varies a bit for reasons unknown, ranging from crickets on a warm summer evening, to — when it’s bad — a shrieking teakettle. 

For a solid month there, including all the way through Christmas until we finally learned to let it fade mostly into the background and not think about it, the unceasing sound consumed pretty much every bit of joy in The Observer’s life. It filled in every crack and crevice, until we worried at times that it would drive us completely around the bend, and that is no lie. You have no idea how much you crave the sound of silence until you lose it.

As doctors and specialists and suffering commiserators have told us now in triplicate: Once you have tinnitus, there is pretty much nothing that can be done. It either stays or goes as it came, on its own timetable. With the exception of certain rare cases, there is absolutely no cure. There’s no pill you can swallow for it. There is absolutely no reliable treatment or yoga position or quack remedy to fix it. There is nothing whatsoever to be done, other than to be told: “Learn to live with it,” which is a hell of a lot easier said than done.  

The Observer’s case is apparently pretty mild compared to some poor bastards out there, and we have been able to learn to mostly tune it out these days, completely forgetting about it for hours at a time before we absentmindedly think, “Is it still there?” and then there it is again, loud as ever, pouring in like the hot lead, like the sound of a sudden scream in the dusk. Without Spouse and Junior — the latter of whom confided in his Old Man that he has had a ringing in his ears since he was a child; a fact that would have likely got his little ass shipped to the Mayo Clinic had his very protective mother and father known it back when he was in short pants — it’s genuinely questionable whether we would have made it through. That said, The Observer has made great strides in three short months, and we’re confident there will come a day when we don’t think about it at all.

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All this is to say: Please do us a favor and protect your hearing, kids. At a concert, at the club, using tools or equipment: If you’re doing something that makes you have to talk above a normal speaking voice, you are risking your ears and you are risking what The Observer has endured and is enduring, and may endure for the rest of our days. If it’s loud, get some earplugs or leave. Trust Your Old Pal when we say: You absolutely do not want to experience this for a minute, much less months, much less forever. So listen. Because Yours Truly knows of which we speak.