This is going to sound odd, but it's truly the only way I know how to put it: I have bionic ears. It started around three months ago: everything suddenly seemed to be amplified. There was no trigger - one day my hearing was perfectly normal, and the next I could be sitting in the front of a room and hear people whispering in the back of it, as clearly as if they were sitting right behind me. People looked at me oddly, asked why I was being so quiet, when I thought I was speaking in a normal tone. I couldn't concentrate when there was a mosquito buzzing in the next room.
Things were, quite simply, very, very loud.
(I just read through that and realised that it sounds like a passage from a superhero novel. TOPAZ WINTERS can hear your deepest secrets and everything you hold near to your heart. Nothing escapes her super-hearing. Her ears are a force to bring the quietest whisperers to their knees.)
Unfortunately, that is not actually as fun as it sounds. (Which is a shame, because it does sound quite awesome.)
Because although I could hear the quieter noises, I could also hear everything else much, much louder than it really was. It happened 24/7 - there was no way of turning it off, which meant that I was constantly overwhelmed by the sheer number of noises that we encounter while doing this thing called living. There was no muffler and no way to make it go away. It was exhausting.
And so, because I am not particularly interested in walking around wearing noise-cancelling headphones for the rest of my life, something had to change.
Over the weekend, we visited an audiologist and had it confirmed: this is not actually in my head, and for some reason we haven't yet figured out, I do have extremely sensitive ears. (This is rather ironic, because most of the older members of my extended family are actually hard-of-hearing. Something like this was... unprecedented.)
This is how it works: most people with "perfect" hearing can hear about 10-25 decibels naturally, without straining their ears. In contrast: I can hear to the 0-10 decibel range.
There are several explanations for this, and we are still not quite sure which is the correct one. A few of the specialists we've spoken to have used the terms "auditory processing disorder" and "hyperacusis" - we can't determine whether it's either of those or something completely different without doing further testing.
However, one thing we do know: this is almost certainly connected to the mental health issues.
The fact that it came on without warning means that it was likely caused by something to do with my anxiety. (This is especially interesting because a few of the anxiety triggers actually do have to do with loud noises.) Which likely means that if we can get this fixed, the anxiety issues might decrease slightly as well.
Of course, this is quite a lot of "if"s and "might"s and "possibly"s and "maybe"s - but still, it feels good to have some kind of physical link to the anxiety (and possibly depression, though we haven't yet confirmed that one). I'll keep you lovelies updated on what happens - so far we're still deciding what the next step is, but you will know as soon as I do.
One thing I do know for certain, though: I am not at all going to regret leaving this particular superpower behind. ;)