By J. D. Rider
For a man who once had everything, the wrath of noxacusis — with all its pain and villainy, and black-and-blue demeanor — has redefined adversity and what it means to suffer. His days are ruled by pestilence and soundwaves of detention, and the struggle to exist — to merely live a life — is challenged every second. The pain he has with every sound is torture beyond measure. He’s so disabled now, warring with a vile realm, that life is spent inside a house, hiding to survive. He doesn’t have a choice, as noise makes him worse and worse, even with protection. Like ankle chains of detriment, or fetters made of iron, there’s no way to escape this, nowhere free of all the pain, the unrelenting conflict, as sound is just too prominent, like shadows casted east to west, reigning heavily. So if he tries to leave the house, no matter where he goes — left, right, up, down, back, or even forward — sound will be there, too, waiting with a bullwhip … a whip that’s cracking violently, causing lacerations … loud, harsh, echoey; a ritual of defeat. It’s truly prison-like, a cell or painful paradigm which offers no solutions. But that is noxacusis, bludgeoning reality until it’s black-and-blue, or red with endless blood.
It’s unbelievable. And sadly, what remains of a once-successful life is tragedy and ruins. And the ruins don’t lie. Fervently, let’s explore them; their ash and residue. Through careful excavation, through words and literature, through spells of curiosity and formal sympathy, let’s analyze a tragedy of epic dissidence, where noise is the culprit. His story, both parts painful and gut-wrenching, raises so many questions that have no answers. The mysteries, undeniable, are coaxed into existence, surrounded by elusive traits that guard their true identities, ‘cause really, nothing happened; nothing crazy, anyway. His downfall, oddly, was the product of normal, everyday things that most people do in life, and that’s what makes it evil. That’s what makes it odd. That’s what makes it luminous; unsettling and scary. In sad, abysmal ways, simple things were seismic. But how? That, he doesn’t know. Perhaps it’s from genetic flaws or faulty DNA. Family-wise, he notes that ear anomalies were common in the bloodline, mostly on his mother’s side: otosclerosis, mild tinnitus, eustachian tube dysfunction, and earwax buildup; nothing catastrophic; and certainly, never noxacusis, a vile horrorfest, evil and absurd, but altogether real.
And yes, it’s really evil. In every single way, it’s like a horror film. It fits that genre perfectly, capturing the dread. A war of dire consequence where pain is front-and-center, that swallows life and everything until there’s nothing left, that leaves you “dead” or paralyzed, or begging for relief, that is noxacusis, like Stephen King’s langoliers who gorge on time and space, or something far more sinister — a black hole of intensity that’s preying on the cosmos, where light is seized by gravity and nothing can escape; where matter is irregular and smashed into a point. It’s like an act of desecration, taking everything, just like noxacusis. When time and space are nullified in every single way, their structures and their properties are trapped and can’t escape. No longer are they recognized as part of anything, except a singularity of lonely isolation, worse than even death. Well, that is noxacusis, the catastrophic kind, where gravity is sovereign, warping everything; where life is fully nullified, squashing your identity into a little ball. And that’s what he is up against: that ball of noxacusis; a paradox and nightmare; a journey into Hell; his life, dead and traumatized, caught within a void.
It’s hungry and defiant, this evil noxacusis. It’s taking everything, even simple things, like talking without pain, as sounds are just too bothersome and he can only whisper. But he often writes in place of that to aid communication, since even whispers hurt. He’s full of great remorse, though, sharing thoughts so candidly, holding nothing back, “Nothing compares to nox … not in my experience. It’s unlike anything — well, anything I’ve seen. And I’ve seen a lot. It’s worse than everything.” There’s an emphasis on worse, a fervent tone in his response as a spark of fire emanates, flaming through his eyes. It’s frank and genuine; a thing of clarity. He’s damn sure of it. But it’s almost inconceivable. How did the unthinkable happen in the first place — losing everything? In his own, honest words, plain as day and clear as crystal, he lays it on the table …
“Not in a million years did I ever dream of this … that I’d somehow relate to the darkest corners of suffering, and the existential crisis conveyed so tragically by an extinction-level event — getting noxacusis. When I think about hyperacusis, and the hell that ultimately defines severe noxacusis, a pretty good analogy is tantamount to it: Earth’s magnetic field, or the geomagnetic field. When someone’s blessed with healthy ears, they coexist with sound — peacefully, forever. Well, it reminds me of that, where Earth — also blessed and healthy — coexists in harmony with a giant fireball, the sun. And its magnetic field faithfully protects it from the sun’s hostility, be it solar flares, radiation, or charged particles. The field makes it healthy. Without that field, its health would dwindle rapidly, opening a doorway, where threats or great atrocities would decimate its body. Life could not exist, as the radiation alone would definitely kill the atmosphere. The whole planet, in fact, would eventually succumb to the naked reality which ultimately nabbed it: losing its protection. But the field is reliable, deflecting all the threats, so it’s not a real problem. After all, the field exists for that sole reason — to protect the world.
But in this analogy, the field dies and the sun itself, with all its weight and energy, is like a feral soundscape, the thing attacking us, which represents the cause-and-effect relationship of nox and life itself. Basically, the field represents an auditory organ which has a proper shield — or a nox-free ear — to provide protection from incoming sound. The sun represents sound. And the Earth represents us — our quality-of-life. Getting nox, however, is like losing our field, our faithful shield. And in return, we, the people, are vulnerable, naked, and unprotected. For us, to lose that field initiates disaster, guaranteed, because sound is everywhere, emulating torture. Just like Earth’s scenario, life as we know it will perish; die more or less, once everything’s ruined by radiation. Well, sound is our radiation. But in this case, what’s attacking us isn’t murderous, just torturous and evil, which, really, is even worse. The world becomes barren, hostile; unfit for life and living. The sun — like a big ferocious monster — is raining down on us; its fire in the form of noise. And therefore, everything is hellish, bent on tragedy, as noise is attacking, just like radiation. There’s no way to avoid it. The world, like Hades, becomes an ill-tempered place. We can’t do anything now, as sound is fully sovereign, every single wave. We lost our precious field — our ears, they really lost it, and nox is in control. And life, paradoxically, is now a splintered dream, as it would be, too, for Earth, if it lost its precious field.
Since nox is catastrophic, comparing it to that — a natural disaster that reduces life to rubble — is understandable. For some of us, we lost everything … truly. Our world passed away, as if an armageddon — or self-contained apocalypse — swallowed every morsel, leaving survivors to fend for their lives, just like me, in my domicile, holding on so tightly. But anyway, let me introduce myself. My name’s J. D. and I live in Columbus, Ohio — the United States of America — and I also have severe tinnitus and noxacusis. The last 2 years have been atrocious. Before that, though, life had reached a pinnacle. Things had flourished greatly; my job, even. Years of hard work had finally paid off, and a great promotion had come into view. But nowadays, nox is my assailant; my fiend and my harasser. Had I known that this would happen — that a vile storm would come here, wrecking things so thoroughly — I would’ve fought relentlessly to keep my life in order, preventing this disaster.
But life goes on, I guess — or tries to, anyway. Even here, in the face of such calamities, it tries to, stubbornly. Though it’s ultimately failing, which comes with the territory. These conditions are merciless, like pissant thieves. They took everything from me, especially nox. It’s not a condition that tags along as I navigate through life. It’s not part of the ride. It is the ride. There is no navigation. It’s so consuming that it kills all the roadways, the cities, and the opportunities that lie outside these walls, a place that I call ‘home.’ Twenty-eight hundred square-feet … that’s my world, my prison cell, and everything outside that, a cosmos that’s unreachable. That’s what makes it evil. It’s like being at war with the universe itself. It changes the very construct of reality, as sound becomes an allergen, fully sovereign. And often, even my own home isn’t safe. Most of the things that made me worsen, in fact, happened under my own roof, as you’ll see in my story.
But now, in 2023, I feel pain to every sound, even tiny ones. I’ll give you an idea of just how sensitive I am. Last week, I was inside my house with ear protection on, a noise reduction rating of 33 decibels, and a police siren went by about a quarter-mile away, and I still felt instant pain. How that’s even possible totally baffles me. Often, I’m not even comfortable in my own home. It’s wild and defiant, and almost unbelievable. If sound itself were really evil, this is what it’d look like: foul and supernatural, and very confrontational, constantly attacking, as if it were a fighter, bursting through the doors and walls like crazy, vicious winds; a raging storm that doesn’t cease.
But it’s also inside, not just outside. When my bones crack, for instance, it causes instant pain. When I swallow a certain way, I feel every note and tone like harsh reverberation. And coughing and sneezing are totally off-limits. In fact, I’ve had to train myself to avoid them. I haven’t sneezed in almost a year now, and haven’t truly coughed either. I’ve only half-coughed, catching myself to stop the act before it’s fully exercised. Basically, if there’s sound, there’s pain — any kind of sound. My nox is like a monster; no exaggeration. With almost every sound, a demon’s conjured up. Stabbing that’s horrific — and knife-like in demeanor — is often what I feel. It’s deep inside the ears and always instantaneous. And sometimes, with smaller sounds, it’s like sandpaper rubbing abrasively. I’ll feel its raw, abrasive touch prickling my ears, leaving them abused, or scathed and violated.
Depending on its loudness, and the frequency involved, I’ll feel pain in variations. More or less, there’s an abundance of different sensations between each sound, so they’re plentiful in the ways they manifest themselves. But I don’t get delayed pain — only instant. The pain is only there for as long as the sound is. My left ear is worse, but both are bad. And my tinnitus is electrical and painful; loud and unmaskable. It’s not just a sound, sadly — it’s a sensation, too. It’s such a high frequency that it literally feels painful, like electrical currents in my ears, and reacts to noise, too. So basically, if I try to go around noise, any kind at all, I’ll be tortured by noxacusis pain and tinnitus will increase, too, getting more and more electrical, while zapping me maniacally. So I can’t be around noise of any kind. I can’t have visitors either, since I can’t tolerate voices. Even simple things, like showering or brushing teeth, are near impossible, without at least a flare-up. So I do them cautiously, which — in and of itself — is a monumental feat. Sound is such an integral part of things that it’s truly life-destroying to lose your tolerance. Your ability to coexist becomes a balancing act on the world’s highest tightrope, while danger lurks below.
But I’m no newbie here. I’ve had tinnitus and nox since 2001 — 22 years. And back then, I was only a 16-year-old teen. Now, I’m 37. I’m not positive, but I think they were caused by Stridex pads to clean my face, which had salicylic acid as an active ingredient. It’s an acne treatment. And it’s not uncommon at all for teens to use these pads. Before nox happened, I had used them a lot for a year or so, trying to keep my skin clear; wiping my face and t-zone, following the protocol — applying a layer 1 to 3 times daily, per the box. But after a year, an unwelcome change had taken hold: ringing in my ears, albeit mild; the classic ‘EEE…’ tone. But it was also stable, until the onset of noxacusis, that is.
My origin story is weird because none of my events — the ones that summoned nox — were caused by dangerous noise. That’s not how it started. I was never a concert person. Only one time, in fact, did I even go to one — a Christmas concert as a 15-year-old and I was all the way in the back. And hardly ever did I use meds in life. In fact, on several occasions in the past, I had decided not to take antibiotics for acne. I had also avoided antidepressants for OCD many a time, even though a few doctors had tried to get me to take them. Back then, a stigma had prevailed about mental health and meds, too. For so long, society had frowned upon them. So my pride, especially, had caused me to steer clear of them. As a young child, I had taken a few rounds of antibiotics at one point or another, for things like strep throat or ear infections, and they were usually amoxicillin (according to my mom), a drug that’s safer and less ototoxic. But taking that is normal. Almost every kid has. As a child, I had also utilized Tylenol and Pepto Bismol on rare occasions, for headaches, colds, or stomach aches, but not routinely. So these things were all normal. In my whole life, I had only crossed paths with 1 person with hyperacusis: my stepdad from the ‘90s, years before my reckoning. His life, at the time, had only been mildly affected by it. Working in construction with loud stuff, like jackhammers, had caused it. Once I also got H, far down the road, it didn’t dawn on me that I was experiencing the same thing that he had fought with all those years before, as the diagnosis, understanding, and name of this disease had never been formalized by him either. A cloud of great uncertainty had left us in the dark — both of us.
But in high school, my nox developed subtly. At my school’s entrance, there were loud, squeaky doors that echoed throughout the hallway. I distinctly remember the pain they caused me. I didn’t understand it, but it freaked me out nonetheless, and I started to be more careful with my ears. I’d never heard of noxacusis, though, or even hyperacusis, but a few years later, I found it on the internet. Back then, of course, it was just called hyperacusis. The term ‘noxacusis’ hadn’t been coined yet, and there was no separation between loudness hyperacusis and the painful type — they were one basic entity.
By 2005, my nox became worse — I’d say moderate — and I was experiencing pain to people’s voices and silverware, and things along that line. I’m not sure why it worsened. I went to a bar in ‘04, so maybe that’s why. Or it might’ve been from natural, accumulated exposures to normal, everyday sounds. But still, I wasn’t homebound. I had 2 radio jobs, one as an Assistant Operations Manager for a Christian station, and the other as a Board Operator for high school football on an oldies station. I could still function okay. By then, I was a 20-year-old with a good career. And though my jobs required sound, I kept the volume low, and didn’t like headphones either, as those were popular with radio. But due to nox, I avoided them.
In 2007, I left my radio jobs and started working for the local NBC affiliate. As a Broadcast Operations Controller, the job was corporate, behind-the-scenes, and I worked with a group of 10 people. We oversaw the technical aspects of 20 TV stations, mostly NBC, and secondary channels that were either weather-related, The CW Network, or different types of retro programming. These stations were located in various parts of the United States, but we handled their operations through 1 centralized hub where everything was monitored via fiber/internet connections. Often, I wore earplugs for the first year until my noxacusis improved significantly. I loved the job, had so much fun, and loved the people, too. And during that time, I also saw an audiologist and tried TRT, tinnitus retraining therapy, but couldn’t pinpoint whether it truly helped or not. In retrospect, I think I just improved naturally with time.
So by 2008, I became mild. I still had faint nox, but could tolerate most noises that were below 85 decibels or so. The end result had taken years, but nox had gone from moderate to extremely mild, and my tinnitus no longer spiked to sound since I wasn’t sensitive anymore. It was mild, too. At the time, it seemed like my improvement had honestly started once I’d made a concerted effort to stop wearing earplugs in controlled environments. But the changes — or nox improvements — had followed an exceedingly subtle timeline, so exposure therapy had remained elusive in its results. This confusion would later deceive me and cause my downfall. But once I improved, as long as I was careful — avoiding painful noise, risky medications, and things like that — I’d be fine and stable, though I’d start to feel pain above the 85 dB threshold. But more or less, I was normal at that point, or 99%. I’d wear earplugs to shower and go to movies; the mall, grocery, or other places, too, just to be safe. But life was good. I was happy and did everything I wanted to.
My stability continued for years, but had occasional flares that were temporary. In 2013, I tried an acne medication that I thought was safe: isotretinoin at 10mg, 1 time every 3 days. But after my first dose, 1 pill, it made my nox moderate again. Two weeks later, it subsided on its own and was mild again. In 2016, I was having severe back issues after years of bodybuilding and tried an inversion table, where you tip upside-down. After a week of using it for 10 minutes daily, my nox jumped to moderate again. This time, it took 2 months to return to mild.
So the next major turn-of-events came in August of ‘21. By that point in life, I was working for a new company. My former job had moved to South Carolina and I, reluctantly, had made the decision not to go, instead opting for the new job shortly after the former had ended. At my new job, a real estate firm, it was all work-from-home due to COVID-19, which was great for me due to noxacusis. My condition was mild enough to allow me to answer phone calls with no problems. My iPhone’s speakerphone was fine at the lowest volume, and I could also tolerate my laptop’s artificial audio at low levels for Zoom meetings. There was no pain with any of this. I didn’t use headphones or a headset, just speakers. My tinnitus was still mild, too. So it was a nice setup all around. In August of that year, however, I developed severe sciatica pain. I determined that too much sitting had caused it. Standing for large portions of my workday had been a routine thing for quite some time, but lately, I had also been sitting for a few hours daily, which had proved to be too much for my back, apparently. The pain was so bad that it felt like my buttocks and right leg were on fire, literally, and every move hurt. So I tried taking a herb, turmeric, because I had taken it fine in 2015 during my bodybuilding days, so I thought it would be safe to try again. Turmeric is known to be a natural anti-inflammatory. It can help reduce pain.
In 2015, even with tinnitus and noxacusis, albeit mild, no adverse reactions had taken place with the herb — none at all. Back then, I had used a different brand (Meijer), but tried a new one this time around (GNC). Despite that, their nutritional specs were the same. But in 2021, after 6 days of taking it — at a normal, daily dosage — my nox went from mild to high moderate. I heard a pop in my ear and an increase of tinnitus for a few seconds before it died back down. By the next morning, though, my nox was once again moderate. I was feeling pain to people’s voices again and normal stuff. Phone calls were hard, but I was able to endure them. Using tape, I blocked the iPhone speaker. It muffled the sound a little, which helped, and I also wore ear protection when I could, like muffs or earplugs.
After a few weeks with no improvements, I researched a lot and decided to try sound therapy, as I had used white-noise generators in 2007 for 6 months with no issues (WNGs for TRT), and I wanted to try them again. For so long, I had wondered if they helped me, but later reassessed that speculation. But I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try them again. I was still under the old-school thinking that dominated former times — that the ‘Jastreboffian’ logic was true, where sound therapy is always the way to go for hyperacusis. I didn’t know any better. I’d been out of the loop for so long and now I faced the same dilemma: to try or not to try. In 2021, no longer did I follow H — the groups and information, or things about this rare disease. I thought I didn’t need to; that I’d already learned everything there was to learn, which I now regret wholeheartedly. At the time, I didn’t even know there were different kinds of hyperacusis, like noxacusis.
But my old generators were broke, so I contacted the doctor who’d supplied them before, asking for new ones, but they weren’t available. They no longer used them, she said. They used pink noise apps instead. I also did research on a hyperacusis forum — a place comprised of sufferers, ‘experts,’ and even a well-known audiologist who’d treated H successfully — and they all said WNGs were tantamount to open-back headphones. I realize now, in retrospect, that this had been a fatal flaw: trusting their advice. For 4 days, I tried the therapy at the lowest volume — a faint whisper with a pink noise CD — for an hour every day. It felt okay; zero pain. But after 4 days, my tinnitus went from mild to moderate and ushered-in a turning point — an avalanche effect. Had I not taken this approach, I sincerely believe that I would’ve eventually recovered to mild again, just like I did in 2013 and 2016. But since I had taken their bad advice, my fear was that I’d never recover to an acceptable level. More or less, the ongoing belief that H is always in need of sound therapy, a one-size-fits-all approach, had duped me. I had tried it before in the past, so I didn’t think it’d be that dangerous, but maybe the headphones themselves were the cause of my worsening. Some believe they’re dangerous.
But things destabilized quickly. An intrusive hum emerged, pulsing and whirling in my left ear. My tinnitus in both ears also became more reactive to sound. When I heard a noise, for example, like a ceiling fan or distant train, my tinnitus would rise and compete with the sounds, as if it were dancing with them. Once they subsided (the sounds), the tinnitus would, too. And I remained mostly stable with these symptoms, even though they’d rise and fall with different levels of intrusiveness each day. I stayed in silence, hoping it would foster healing along with time.
I also went to an ENT to check my hearing. He did a standard audiogram and detected zero hearing loss. I tried to get prednisone, too, a steroid that can reduce inflammation after an acoustic trauma, but he wasn’t willing to prescribe the proper dose, which had been outlined in medical literature for hearing intervention. He gave me a low amount instead, so I never took it. And after further research, I was also afraid to try it, as people had reported it could also make T and H worse. A few months later, I developed 2 ulcers on my leg and they somehow got infected. With double protection — earplugs and muffs — I went to my general practitioner and she said it was so bad that I needed to go to the ER right away. The leg was swollen and very painful. So I went.
They ran various tests, all quiet, and couldn’t figure it out, and they were also uncertain about the infection itself — whether it was truly infected or not. They collected a sample to test it. Later, I found out it was mildly infected. But nonetheless, at the time of my ER visit, they were adamant that I take an oral tablet, penicillin-based, for just 1 dosage. They pressured me a lot and totally discounted my ear conditions. But I refused and opted for a topical one instead, since I’d tolerated the topical one fine in the past, even with tinnitus and noxacusis.
I used it for 2 days, then stopped to be safe, and I seemed okay. And then, a few days later, I used a lotion with tea tree oil on my face, as it was dry and breaking out. In recent years, I’d used tea tree oil when washing my face everyday — and occasionally as a lotion, too — and had never experienced issues, but on this occasion, I went to sleep for the night and woke up several hours later to a humongous tinnitus spike. I immediately wiped the lotion off and took n-acetyl cysteine, an amino acid that many use to detox or protect their ears.
By the next morning, the spike was better, but my nox was even worse. No longer could I tolerate the central air in my house. My ears would feel pain and get muffled, and my tinnitus was now 7 tones rather than the usual 4. It became musical and oscillating. So either the tea tree oil or the topical I’d used from the doctor caused these issues. Maybe both had. So I tried to adapt and coexist with these new symptoms. It improved within a few weeks, tinnitus-wise. The deafening volume went down, but the new tones were still there and my nox was still worse.
I tried to keep my leg clean to let it heal and avoid further doctor visits. It improved initially, with less swelling and redness. However, the ulcers eventually worsened, becoming unbearably painful. The leg was swollen again, infected badly. So I was forced to intervene. I went to the hospital team that the previous ER doctor had recommended — the wound-care specialists. Once again, this new doctor pressed for antibiotics and completely discounted my ear issues. He didn’t understand or believe these issues can destroy your life so thoroughly that you’re incompatible with existence more or less.
As if I were a lunatic, he looked at me with wild-eyes and total disbelief. He even pulled my mom aside, inquiring with questions: asking if I worked a job or saw a therapist. He was trying to size me up. And then, he went even further. A nurse — trying to help, but thoroughly misguided — told me about her personal struggles from a former time. She had bore a son, beautiful and healthy, but also had developed maternal overcontrol, extreme anxiety, and stress about the future, opening the floodgates for debilitating fears. The child’s safety had become a thing that worried her a lot. She went on to say that a therapist had resolved the matter for her, and that she was okay now. So basically, she equated that situation to mine — my fear of tinnitus and sounds, as if they were imaginary constructs of a fragile mind; things that, with hard work and dedication, could feasibly assimilate to a positive perspective.
She downplayed the physicality of my conditions, assuming they were mental. But the way I see it, anyone who’d face this — pain to every sound, physically and constantly, and ringing without end, spiked by every move — would feel anxious, too. They wouldn’t have a choice. It’d be impossible to not get anxious if every move they made worsened their symptoms. If they didn’t worry, they wouldn’t be human. So this wasn’t a J. D. reaction … no. It was a human one. And I felt offended, of course, that she had dished-out such a story, belittling me in a caustic way. But I bit my lip in spite of that. I didn’t say a word. And I didn’t take the meds either.
But it’s common for hyperacusis sufferers to be treated that way, as their problem is so exceedingly rare that most have never heard of it, even doctors. Only a select group of specialists are aware of its existence. For the life of me, though, I still can’t figure out why so many doctors refuse to believe that it’s possible, where hyperacusis is a major physical problem that, in return, causes anxiety because it’s so intrusive. To not believe defies reason. It’s well-documented, for starters, even by medical research, though it’s not well-known. So they’re fueled by ignorance. It’s also well-known that eye issues, for example, can result in pain and sensitivity to light, that muscles can be painful, nerves throughout the body, too, and even brittle bones, with arthritis and such. Not sure why the ears would be any different. So many docs are quick to say that the underlying mechanics of the ears are hard to map in the body, evading their current scope of medical knowledge, ‘cause the ear and brain organs — which are believed to be intertwined when it comes to hearing — are so intricate that we haven’t figured them out entirely. But in the next breath, they’re quick to say that noxacusis symptoms relating to those organs are impossible, those same organs that — by their own admission — they haven’t figured out yet. It’s contradictory. And their continued pattern to quickly and confidently demean the victims of hyperacusis is lunacy on their part, not ours.
Over the years, I’ve met a lot of doctors … some good, some bad, and some that really care. But I can usually tell right away who’s who. Problem is, even the caring ones operate from a point-of-view that they’re somehow in communion with a level of knowledge that most aren’t. They think their privileged position — their education, hard work, and monumental title — makes them an ‘expert.’ But the human body is so intricate that a lot of things are still a mystery. We treat diseases, but with some of them, we don’t even know their exact culprit or inner workings. So sometimes, doctors need to humble themselves and realize they’re investigators, too, not always experts that are all-knowing. Like scientists, they’re probing the atmosphere to make sense of it all.
I think they’re arrogant to assume they know everything. The body is vastly intricate, a biological machine with millions of facets. More than anyone, they should know that. They’re people who’ve immersed themselves in the study of anatomy. But it’s easier for them to believe that we — the sufferers — are simply hypochondriacs, trying to abuse the system to get money or something else. A lot of folks put doctors on pedestals because they have PhDs. They forget they’re people, too — full of flaws or bias, and the potential to make fundamental errors. Docs don’t like it when they can’t understand something. It makes them look bad. And often, that’s why they use anxiety as a putty — to fill those deep, gaping holes that plague their understanding. With noxacusis, it’s just too rare of a health problem. That’s one of the key reasons we’re often ignored or not believed. Literally, a handful of people for every million say their nox is profoundly severe, and the number for those who even get hyperacusis is low, too. If the numbers were much higher, the demeanor of doctors would change. It’d have to. They’d be confronted by too many patients, so they wouldn’t dismiss us, just like those who have another disease that’s known to be awful — trigeminal neuralgia. It, however, has 15,000 new cases a year, or thereabouts. Nox is nowhere near that. If it were, they’d be forced to reevaluate, accepting our reality: that sound is like an allergen, causing endless pain. But often, doctors are thoroughly defiant of such a notion, even the wound-care one that I encountered. And I still remember that day — the way he acted.
‘Are you okay?’ the doctor asked, pausing for an answer. With guarded hesitation, the delivery was obvious — the way he chose to ask … the way you’d ask a crazy man, not looking for an answer, just spitting out a statement. He could tell that I was anxious; that I wasn’t comfortable. My timid demeanor and hearing protection had blown my cover, well before the end of the appointment. But really, I guess I hadn’t done a very good job of hiding them. Even nowadays, I don’t, as I’m traumatized by nox. But at the end of the day, I really don’t care what people think. This is my life, my story. I gotta live it. I don’t get used to it. I can’t. But the doctor had also sensed that. Like a feral cat, shivering, and wrought by winter’s day, I sat there in my misery, full of pale gloom. My eyes were full of sadness — a look you couldn’t hide, even if your life depended on it. ‘Yes,’ I said, answering his question, though I was lying. One could never be okay under such circumstances. They were just too much. But after that, he pulled my mom aside to question my sanity. He wasn’t buying it. And when he found out that I had previously worked at NBC-4 for so long, his whole demeanor changed, as if I were respectable for such a great achievement. You’d think that docs who’ve seen a lot would understand empathy, and the complexities of the human body, too, but nope, not at all, at least for this doc. But anyway, he also performed debridement on my ulcers. That’s a surgical procedure to break the tissue up and foster healing. For a few minutes, we debated whether to use lidocaine or not — to numb the area topically. Based off former research, I knew that some had reported problems with that, like tinnitus spikes and such. This was only a topical, though, and not facial injections, which had been previously reported as the dangerous method by those victims. And this was also on my leg, nowhere near my ears. So I figured it would be okay. I reluctantly agreed, as I feared it would be too painful not to numb the ulcers. Later that day, though, my tinnitus permanently worsened. One of my tones became constant and louder, rather than intermittent and quieter. Nothing else had happened that day, so I attributed the change to the lidocaine. That’s how sensitive my crazy body was — and still is to this day.
But anyway, for the ulcers, I avoided antibiotics like the plague since they’re ototoxic, and the doctor wanted to put me on one that’s notoriously ototoxic: doxycycline. So instead of taking it, I tried alternatives that were considered safe for tinnitus and noxacusis people — topical collodial silver and benzoyl peroxide. Before that decision, though, I had talked to countless T and H people who used them both and they’d had no adverse reactions to either. I’d been feeling immense pressure, too, like I had to try something, since the doctor had said my life was on the line, literally; that I’d either lose the leg and be forced to take intravenous antibiotics, or get sepsis and die. So I tried those remedies, which helped the ulcers heal. However, one of them made my tinnitus worsen horrendously. I think it was the silver.
It became electrical, unmaskable, and physically painful. It sounded like a stick of dynamite fizzing and zapping explosively. Even in a 60 dB environment, I could still hear it. For one of my tones, the atmosphere and sound were tantamount to those eerie civil defense sirens that warn us faithfully, be it storms, nuclear attacks, or other issues. The way it sounded, like an ominous thing of doom, added to the primal fear or fight-or-flight that had me freaking out. The tinnitus was now a mess of different tones, shooting in all directions. Also, it was similar to snow or the white noise of TV static when there’s no transmission signal.
One of my tones — the one I hated the most, in fact — was piercing violently, like the squeal of shoddy car breaks. The squeal came and went, pulsing like a quasar — in random, different ways, and different variations, too. Sometimes, it was lighter. Sometimes, heavier. But almost always, it carried an explosive discharge, causing constant pain. It sounded like a squeal, but felt like a zap, or shock of electricity — and really, it sounded like electricity, too, when I think about it. Every minute, 15 second intervals would interrupt the zaps, or 30, or 40 … trying to predict was near impossible. But they’d come randomly, aggressively, and unpredictability, so there was no way to habituate; and also, because they hurt, it was too hard to ignore them. They were too random and had minds of their own almost. But the worst thing of all, I felt every single one, every single peak and current.
Their frequencies were so high — so unnatural — that they tricked the brain or something. It thought they were real. Since they felt like electricity, they carried the signature of real electricity — the shock sensation. And sadly, that’s not uncommon. People often report that with tinnitus. Low frequency tones will be felt as vibrational anomalies, for example, and I can vouch for that, too. I have the humongous hum which makes my left ear vibrate, but the painful ones are so much worse; the ones with biting, piercing, nails-on-the-chalkboard frequencies. They’re truly torturous. And they’re sounds we’re not meant to hear 24/7. In life, these frequencies are seldom encountered, which makes them all the more sadistic, as they’re forcing you to sit there and listen to something that’s so unnatural.
I had only used the topicals for a few days (benzoyl peroxide) or a week at most (the silver), but I’d paid a hefty price. Severe tinnitus sucks, as there’s no way to escape it. And with nox, I’m forced to wear protection for large parts of my day, so I’m hearing these bombastic tones and it’s nauseating. They’re all I hear. Still, after these incidents, my nox seemed unchanged, but my tinnitus was now severe or borderline catastrophic. It would also react to noise more. It would get louder and zap more, like electrical shocks. Basically, it would torture me if I tried to go around noise. I was almost completely homebound by this point. I could tolerate going to a doctor with double protection — earplugs and muffs — but that’s about it. I seldom had to go and never left the house.
A few months later, an appointment I had made with a tinnitus and hyperacusis doctor 6 months prior was nearing. In Ohio, she had been anointed as the leading ‘expert’ of these conditions some time ago. But for a long time, I had been hesitant to go for so many reasons, though now, I was also desperate for help, as life was exceedingly bad. Before my decision, people who also have these conditions had offered some info — that their H had improved by using hearing aids. I was skeptical, of course, thinking it wouldn’t help me. But I figured I’d go and see how it went. In the past, I had done standard audiograms and was fine, even with these recent changes and new levels of symptoms. So this time, I decided to do an extended one from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, but still, no hearing loss was detected. Therefore, the audiologist said there was nothing she could do to help me; that hearing aids wouldn’t help either. The audiogram only went to 15 or 20 dB. I even checked with her to confirm. I was afraid to even do it, to be honest, but felt it was my only shot at trying to get better. She promised they’d be careful.
Overall, the test went okay, until I felt significant pain from the final beep administered, the one at 20,000 Hz. And later, my symptoms worsened. The electrical components of my tinnitus went to my right ear even more, along with the zapping, and it’s never fully recovered. These conditions are so evil — so heartless — that when you try to intervene, it’s often your downfall. Seeking help is dangerous. What kinda madness is that? And not only that … it kickstarted a process. From that point on, I kept worsening, despite my greatest efforts to be safe. Eventually, I was forced to take a medical leave of absence from my job. As part of my duties, there were phone calls required and I couldn’t handle the noise anymore. I asked for a 3-month leave for extreme noxacusis, paid of course. It was part of my health benefits and my doctor (the audiologist) signed-off on it. In the paperwork, she said I needed it badly and vouched for it being one of the worst conditions in the world. But still, my insurance company rejected it, refusing any pay, which was unconscionable.
Up to this point, I had always been a giver in life, never a taker. I’d always been a good citizen; paid my taxes; no debt, crimes, or anything; had voted every year; had even worked 22 years straight while never taking any time off for health issues, even when I’d been pummeled by severe back problems for years on end, which have since improved a lot. But even so, my perfect record didn’t matter; my character didn’t either. In my hour of need with a catastrophic illness, they (the insurance company) left me in the dust. And eventually, I lost my job because I wasn’t able to return by the 9 month deadline. So my 2 years of hard work — being their top performer, according to my boss — had been thoroughly vanquished by the time we reached that present time. But nonetheless, we parted on good terms, and they wished me well.
But that’s nox, the savage killer, where madness is the game — an everyday occurrence. Nowadays, sleeping is hard. Sounds are everywhere. I sleep in a windowless bathroom to get silence. And I can’t sleep with hearing protection. It spikes me really bad. More than once, trying it had proved to be the wrong move, with problems every time, making tinnitus worse. Maybe it’s from the occlusion, where I snore or breathe too hard — not sure. But when it’s raining or windy, I can’t even sleep because I’m forced to be in protective gear. So I have to wait. Sometimes, I’m up for 30 hours or more while I’m waiting for the weather to abate. And now that it’s summer, I can barely sleep during the daytime because there’s always someone cutting grass. I have to wear muffs all day and listen to tinnitus that’s so loud that it’s nauseating and painful. It’s one of the worst fates that could ever befall a human being: ejection from reality and everything inside it, where you’re forced to hide inside a house, losing your identity until the day you die. This thing, it has no sway on how you die, but kills you nonetheless. I’ve gotten so bad that the idea of ever being normal again — or even semi-normal — seems like a pied piper’s scam, or something that’ll never happen. But I hope I’m so wrong; dead wrong, in fact. I hope that somehow I can get my life back. The thought of living this way for 40 or 50 more years is a grueling one, as I’m only 37. So I could be alive for a long time. And long-term, I’m not sure how to live like this … I’m really not. I’m just taking it one day at a time and trusting Jesus Christ. I don’t have a choice. I must live to endure the torture.
But still, I can’t believe it. This disease is so finicky and volatile that a herb, a couple days of sound therapy, and some natural stuff-of-the-earth topical gels had banded together to make me go from super mild to catastrophic; from life and freedom to absolute shackles or confinement. That should scare everyone who has tinnitus and noxacusis, as they’re potentially so unstable, like Yellowstone National Park and the dormant supervolcano that’s underneath the ground there. Mild T and nox steam and shoot-out water, like those wondrous geysers in Wyoming, but underneath that soil, there’s a bomb of seismic damage that’s waiting to explode. If you’re not careful, it can happen, destroying everything. According to scientists, Yellowstone’s supervolcano could do just that — explode someday, shooting ash relentlessly across the USA, destroying buildings, killing crops, and even power plants. In every single way, its wrath would reap disaster, changing life and everything for many, many miles — thousands, in fact. A few times in history, it had actually happened, too, further causing concerns that, eventually, it’ll happen again: around 2.1 million years ago, 1.3 million years ago, and, most recently, 664,000 years ago. It’s statistically rare, but so is catastrophic nox. So who knows. The gist of both is one in the same — apocalypse.
But beyond analogies, I don’t even know what to say anymore. I’m so overwhelmed. This disease is just too ruthless to coexist with. It’s like quicksand: being swallowed by the ground, despite my greatest efforts to prevent that. The soundscape of this world is closing-in on me. My life is gone, everything. All I can do is write now. Everything else is gone pretty much. When sound is kryptonite, the world is impossible in almost every way. It’s just too prominent, too woven in the fabric. With most people, I don’t think they realize that this kind of suffering is possible. This is like the deepest depths of the biblical Hell, but the fire is replaced by sound, though the biblical one is worse, of course, because it’s eternal and even more sadistic, as hard as that is to imagine. But on Earth, this is about as close as you can get in a lot of ways. I’ve lost everything due to this, almost like Job in The Bible. I can’t be around my family anymore; can barely tolerate whispers, even. I’ve lost my job, hobbies, possessions; my citizenship on Earth, as I’m allergic to sound and therefore incompatible with almost every aspect of life, since sound is everywhere. A tractor that’s 2 football fields away causes significant pain for me, even though I’m inside the house with protection on. I have to move to a different part of the house to evade it.
Sometimes, I can’t even eat because constant grass cutters are making too much noise. Even people that are super far away — like a quarter-mile — cause me instant pain when they’re cutting. I can’t wear protection to eat, as the occlusion bothers me, so I have to eat with no protection on. But I’ll spend hours trying to dodge these cutters while moving to a different part of the house to avoid pain, and then trying to eat once they’re done. Often, my food is cooked and ready to go, but then a tractor fires up and I’m forced to wait again. It’s madness. At any given moment, I’d say 100 people or more have the ability to torture me, or intrude on my life with tractors or other things — anyone within a quarter-mile. It’s not their fault. They’re just living. I’m the odd man out. But that’s the dire truth. I miss the good old days, where life was fueled by happiness. In the photo below, I’m playing Guitar Hero with earplugs in. That was 2019, back when I was mild, a time when I could do that with zero pain. But now, it’s just the opposite, where noise is too painful; often, even with protection. Nowadays, the protection reduces the pain, but doesn’t prevent it altogether for some sounds.
And on top of that, I have tinnitus that’s so awful that it’s nauseatingly harsh, and I’m forced to endure it while wearing protection. Even without protection, it’s terrible. I’ll throw muffs on to protect, but still feel pain sometimes. Heck, my tolerances are so bad that a grain of rice falling and hitting the carpet causes very minor pain. Rain pattering against the rooftop is painful, and things like that — environmental conditions — force me to abandon sleep since I can’t wear protection (while sleeping). If I try to expose to sound, I worsen more. To combat these dilemmas, a portable soundproof room could be the answer. It’s made to block 30 dB. So with that technology, I could be in my escape room and eat without protection, or sleep without resistance from the things going on outdoors, sound-wise. It’s a sad thing, though. It reminds me of Magneto from the X-Men franchise, imprisoned in a glass box and cut-off from the world. But the trade-off would be worth it. I could get some relief and control back. With no pushback, I could sleep anytime I want and eat anytime I want. So I might do it, but it’s pricey, about $5,000. It’s ironic that a prison cell, essentially, could give me control back. And that’s because nox makes the world itself a prison, so I’m trying to escape it.
It goes beyond that, though. There are some things that even a soundproof room can’t fix. I’m so sensitive that, unbelievably, running my hand through my hair or touching my bushy beard causes instant pain and tinnitus spikes. I can’t even cut my hair — and haven’t since December of 2021, before I worsened more. With or without protection, I feel pain. Without, external sound is painful. And with, internal sound is painful: occlusion from eating, swallowing, and internal bodily sounds. When I try to wear muffs and cut my beard, I’ll feel pain. So I can only do so much. My beard is wild, too. Even brushing my teeth causes temporary flares. I used to have it all — family, friends; a great job; material things, like my Knight Rider car; a social life; a perfect body from bodybuilding; everything. But now, I’m reduced to ashes. It’s unbelievable. I totally understand why nox is questioned so highly by healthy people who can’t understand it, like a source of disbelief. It sounds too wild-eyed, like a flashy horror film. It really does. But unfortunately, it’s not. It’s 100% real and basically murders you in every single way, except the fact you’re breathing.”
It’s such a tragedy. You hear the pain and desperation bleeding through his words. And such despair is rational, but fuels the Devil’s playground. It’s eager to consume him, as Death is in the air — that’s a certainty. He’s whispering to give it up and end the suffering, but J. D. won’t reciprocate. He’s stronger than he knows, and yearns to be the victor. Though nonetheless, to say that he’s lost everything is truly accurate, and he blames himself wholeheartedly, regretting some decisions. His life is one of scrutiny, a trial of descent; of blatant prosecution, full of vicious blame. A judge and jury synchronize to ridicule and pester; to think for days or endless weeks to reach a final verdict, one that’s just as blistering as shocking in its words, “Guilty on all counts.” A sentence of catastrophe — of monumental height — is uttered in the courtroom, “Eviction from the planet, and life without parole!” Like Zod, a foe in Superman, the Phantom Zone awaits, an awful “pocket universe” where prison is eternal. It’s harsh and cataclysmic, and nothing will escape it.
Just like those broken souls — those people facing prison — he dwells on life and former times, a place of peace and happiness, and great prosperity. But then he views this present age, a life of strange affliction, and knows that he inherited a monumental crisis, a place of disembodiment that offers no solutions. But how does he survive now? And if he can’t, how does he escape? It’s like an evil paradox, circling around him, but all he knows is this: he’s here now, tragically, trapped in a hellish state, and he’s so afraid of suffering, but more afraid of death, as he clings to faith in Jesus Christ and prays for healing. And the harsh idea of giving up is unacceptable. He can’t accept a tragic fate, but also cannot live. When nox is catastrophic, it’s David vs. Goliath — without your precious slingshot. The giant has a javelin, a spear, and mighty sword, caked in blood and crusted skin from every strike against you. You have no weapon, though. You’re powerless and weak. So it’s not a fair dilemma. The titan overpowers you and stabs you violently. You’re fighting to defeat him, but losing everyday. But since you fight and still survive, you’re stronger than you know. Let’s hope and pray relentlessly that he can fully heal, or improve quite a bit. Let’s dream that there’s a second chance, a place for reclamation. But still, the future is uncertain. As it looms before him, it’s impossible not to worry, he says. If he doesn’t improve, he’ll be devastated, of course, but he’s still trusting God. This eloquent piece describes the savage loss and implications of such a notion. His words are powerful …
“The loss is catastrophic: the sights I’ll never see; the sounds I’ll never hear; the foods I’ll never taste; the things I’ll never touch; the scents of life and liberty, I’ll never smell again. Like bodies in a morgue, they’re stretched upon a table. They’ve seen their better days, and dieners will unfetter them and cast them to a grave. That flaming touch of dissidence, which murders everything, is sad in every way. I’ll never see another state or country far away. I’ll never love a rainy day or catch a windy breeze. I’ll never hug another soul or chat like normal folks. As snow is dancing beautifully and conquering the sky, I’ll never have a winter’s day, clenching jubilation; the smell of smoke and firewood that permeates the land, as families gather fluently and celebrate their love. And beaches will evade me. I’ll dream of strolls across the sand and yearn for reclamation; the smell of salt and iodine, and seaweed in the air; the water, warm and heavenly, that’s tickling my feet, as waves of glee and happiness entice my fragile brain. I’d marvel at the sight — the spell of nature’s ocean. I’d cherish everything, but life will not allow it. It won’t reciprocate, or grant me liberation. Before a velvet sunbeam, a painted sky of wonderment will never come to pass. The sun will never set. The moon will never shine. Nature will defy me, and fade into the ether. A son, I’ll never have — or daughter, for that matter. A wife, I’ll never wed, without a miracle. A kiss, I’ll never taste. Sex, I’ll never feel. Life will never be, and tears will gather daily.”
That is noxacusis, the catastrophic kind.
Author: J. D. Rider