“One ear, man. I can’t believe this! One ear has taken life to hell!” –Nate Repke
In the wake of its presence, the world passed away. Everything was ruined, and life would never be the same. A time of love and happiness, and dreams of pure enchantment, had fallen by the wayside. And thus, like a memory, fading for eternity, they’re strangers to the mind now; so much so at this point, that lore and broken fantasy, and bouts of pain and treachery, are fueling nonconformity, and even tragedy. They’ve recomposed reality and stifled everything. They’ll never see this present age, or know what lies ahead.
A slash-and-burn reality is rivaling the confines of Hell itself, the chaos and the dissonance of land that’s truly feral, yanked from that assembly of life and all its vessels, the treasures and the filigrees of love and all its splendor, as spells of great atrocity encircle everywhere, laying waste to heaven’s gates and glory beyond measure, where now they’re dead and nullified, and life is buried deep.
For a man in Grand Blanc, Michigan, those poignant words of vile hell are not just fairy tales — they’re his reality. Before this harsh monstrosity, life was truly special. Really, he had everything. Life was like a gold mine. Like almost everyone, the notion that our tiny ears could torture us defiantly had never seen the light of day or truly registered, until disaster struck, killing his reality in every single way. But when he saw that horrid truth, he was hosed and powerless. Life was truly over.
The ugly truth was evident — Nate had noxacusis, a rare condition that causes physical pain to everyday noise, defying the sacred footholds that every man and woman deserve. And the nightmare that Nate describes is one that squashes everything: “Imagine an ear ache on steroids. With sound exposures, my right ear burns and aches horrifically. I also get jaw pain and face pain that radiates. It’s the worst pain I’ve ever had, and lingers for days or weeks. So sound is now an allergy. I can’t believe it’s possible.”
But that is noxacusis, where a world of misery is not only conjuring the fire and brimstone of Hades, but also impressing its cohorts, like Beelzebub and Co. It hearkens back to the days when preachers would take the pulpit, sharing the ugliest stories of Hell and great catastrophe, which dominate its world. When nox is catastrophic, simple tasks are hard to do and sometimes near impossible, ’cause sound is everywhere, stifling the landscape. It’s similar to Hell, but sound is the aggressor, not heat and vile flames. Like grooms and brides, hypnotized, or fully intertwined, so is sound with planet Earth. It’s married to its essence.
To show the depth of every task which nox has ruined highly, Nate composed a summary. “Here’s a small, non-exhaustive list of what I miss and cannot do: driving; talking in a normal voice without whispering; listening to music; watching a movie or video with noise; talking on the phone; going to a restaurant; spending a normal evening with friends; taking a shower without protection; cooking without protection; going shopping without protection; spending a day walking around town; going to a park; working in a public job; I can only work remotely and without meetings; basically, sound is now abolished.”
So sounds are now just torture spells, thoroughly defiant. His pain, however, is usually delayed, not instant. And not only that, he wars with tinnitus, reactive and oppressive. It sounds like fire trucks, blaring horribly, and also harsh electric, asinine in nature. And later on, that tinnitus will play a pivotal role in the torture of this story.
But Nate, shell-shocked by the nature of nox, often describes this journey as equal parts horrid and tragic, and the hardest struggle ever — by miles, in fact. To him, the outside world is so loud that noise avoidance is really a project in and of itself, as nature is littered with sound as far as the ears can hear. It’s a breeding ground and melting pot for noise and its culprits. So the practice of cultivating silence at all times is so hard that suffering is commonplace for Nate, and he’s mostly homebound now — like 99%.
With hellish noxacusis, it pushes some to suicide ’cause hope is now a hologram and fully obsolete. The Earth itself is nullified and paradoxical. Just like a mausoleum, there is no life to carry out when nox is so oppressive. It doesn’t jive with anything since sound is everywhere, ruling like a tyrant. So like a crazy paradox, bashing Nate so violently, a war of cosmic magnitude was thrown upon his doorstep. But worse than that in every way, this war could rage forever. Ears don’t always heal. And in those situations, it’s burning life and everything, just like a forest fire.
Truly, the wrath of noxacusis can burn and lay waste to every single tree, spreading for eternity until you breathe that final breath and go into the ground. For some, it’s so hostile, so catastrophic, that it forces them to isolate and hide inside forever; homebound for eternity as life itself is passing by, taunting them and mocking them for years and years and years. And not only that, they’re wearing ear protection, but still, they’re worsening. There’s no way to avoid it. Even ambient sound can prove to be too much for many.
For Nate, this could mean 40 or 50 more years of housebound isolation. For people this severe, it’s sadly not a choice. Raising their middle fingers in defiance of sound is not a wise decision. They must obey its sovereignty. So people are often trying to guard their fragile ears, preserving what little life they have remaining. Truth is, nox is like a tyrant, and people are its prisoners. If they’re disobedient or reckless in behavior, the symptoms can get torturous and suicide can happen, like awful horror movies, where life is super deadly. Bird Box comes to mind. And it’s also like A Quiet Place, where sound can conjure aliens with violent motivations. But it’s sad to see their precious lives get squashed into the ground.
The losses of Nate are so tragic. The fruits of his labor were all erased. Growing up, the talents of this special man were infinitely vast, so compromise and settling were never really options. He was so creative, and always fully capable of clenching precious dreams. While climbing the corporate ladder was difficult to manage, he did it nonetheless, working in cyber security. Though the ramifications of noxacusis would later snatch it all away, affecting that position, and everything beyond it — his whole entire life. At just the age of 27, he was young, victorious, and married to his wife. And now, they were also expecting their first child together. He had so many hobbies, too: golfing; cooking; walking the family dog; cruising around and working on his car; attending comedy shows; movies and TV; exercise and more. But everything would change.
While a multitude of factors are likely to blame, the origin of his problems were probably progressive in development. A year has almost passed now, and nox — in the driver’s seat, calling all the shots — is NOT slowing down. It’s speeding like a racer, pedal to the metal. It’s cruel as cruel could ever be: that still, he’s only worsening, despite his careful measures.
Nate, now just 28, recalls that loudness hyperacusis first arrived in August of 2022, when a cellphone blasted his ear at close range. He was talking to his mother — something typical. At this stage, noise was loud, but not painful. It just felt super jarring. So not long after, he noticed that everything was different: “My uncle dropped by. We watched some YouTube videos. While listening, I was like, ‘Hey, can you turn it down? It’s loud.'” Likely, the quality, the frequencies, or nature of that video, had targeted the areas of damage in the ear, now so vulnerable, and on their way to hell. However, that event — while troubling — was not the first or last. In December of 2021, sensations of pain had also been experienced while working on his Malibu, hammering inside its wheel bearing. And not long after, tinnitus in quiet rooms had taken center stage.
Over time, the inclusion of hyperacusis also made his tinnitus increasingly severe. Both ears are now affected. His left is a mild single-tone. His right, however, is catastrophic, worsening and worsening for no apparent reason. Thus, the serpentine nature of its ringing is ravaging his mind. The electrical components of his tinnitus become unstable, and the usual tone — which sounds like eeeeee — starts to worsen more, adopting a shift in timbre, or a broken cell that’s firing. So it’s torture every day. Up, down, up, down, up and f*cking down, the sound is so obscene, so loud and so oppressive: eeeEEeEEeeeEeeEEE.
And nowadays, it’s also torture when he’s forced to wear hearing protection to battle nox. It’s so loud, in fact, it’s the only thing he hears. And the tone is also loud enough that masking wouldn’t work. Even without nox, he’d hear it everywhere. “On average, it’s 70 decibels. When I’m wearing ear protection, it feels like 100. It’s so loud that I can’t hear anything; no talking; nothing. The screech is overpowering.” Can you imagine that? Seventy is comparable to freeway noise. One-hundred is louder than a lawnmower. This vile tone also increases in the presence of sound. So basically, if he goes around sound — most sounds, in fact — it ups the torture more and more, and sometimes doesn’t cease. So he has to be so careful, as permanent damage is easy to conjure. Even being cautious, his tinnitus has ramped up permanently over time, presumably from too much sound exposure.
But the story isn’t done yet. It’s far from over, actually. The worst is yet to come. On December 15th, 2022, going to a dentist for a cleaning and filling, against his better judgment, would cause him noxacusis — a mistake that, to this day, he refuses to accept, ’cause during the appointment, he felt a shock sensation while the dental hygienist was working on his teeth with an ultrasonic scaler. And not long after, symptoms of noxacusis set in. Nox is basically a more extreme version of hyperacusis, meaning that more and more damage can sadly call it forth. So a lot of extreme sufferers will encounter both loudness hyperacusis and noxacusis, just like Nate.
His attempts to calm this madness were quick and decisive. “Right off the bat, I talked to a person who also had nox; severe, though. We met online. I thought it was so unlikely to get nox that I didn’t take the advice that he gave me. I thought that he was so unlucky — just beyond it. So I said to myself, ‘Meh, the highest rated earplugs should work fine. It’s not like I’m going to concerts, or working on my car again. I’m doing normal things.’ And the data on hand had made it clear that exposures to everyday sounds were safe, like online information and ENT advice. But, to be cautious, I wore those earplugs everywhere: to drive; to work; for walks outside as well; and also, to a few events beyond that. But the data was wrong — tragically wrong. Those everyday sounds were still too much, even with earplugs. So I worsened more and more. And later, on Christmas Day, I learned that the hard way. I didn’t use earplugs for our family gathering. After a while, my right ear was burning and turning red. I took a picture. I could physically see the redness. I’m afraid these behaviors set me back permanently.”
Oftentimes, sufferers have said that sound avoidance has helped their noxacusis — to encourage “healing.” And after they improve (if they ever do), it’s safe to venture out. However, Repke is somewhat bitter — and for good reason — because ultimately, sources of incompetence led him to the slaughterhouse. And now, the window for recovery is fading more and more, which sometimes happens when too much damage festers, according to sufferers. With so much regret, he wishes that he could go back and isolate first and foremost.
During the course of his journey, he visited several ENT doctors who also propagated bad data. However, this makes sense, as it’s such a rare condition that most doctors handle it wrong, or don’t understand it, or haven’t heard of it. Multiple hearing tests were done, but everything was fine, they said. Everything looked normal. These were standard audiograms, not extended, so they didn’t cover all the frequencies of sound — just the common ones we hear.
Despite that, the doctors gave him a clean bill of health, test-wise. The first doctor he saw had also had tinnitus for years, from loud noise and going to concerts. No advice was given on how to manage the tinnitus or hyperacusis, though, other than saying that maybe earplugs could help. At that time, however, Nate was already using them.
These ENT doctors also prescribed some medications to try: low-dose prednisone for 5 days, methylprednisolone for 7, and nortriptyline for 7; and later, he also took nortriptyline again; this time, for 3 months, after talking to other noxacusis sufferers who used it with no problems, and possibly, had improvements in their symptoms. “So for 2 months straight, I took the lowest possible dose at 10 milligrams. And then, the doctor upped it to 30 pills at 25 milligrams. I took that over a 3 month period every couple days, so it ended up balancing out to a lower dosage, as if I had taken 10 milligrams for 3 months instead of 25 milligrams. And that’s when I started feeling the side effects, like blurry vision and dry mouth, so I slowly tapered off.”
The first 2 drugs are steroids, and sometimes they help hearing loss or trauma if taken right after the loss or trauma happens (Leung, Flaherty, Zhang, Hara, Barber, & Burgess). And the final med, nortriptyline, can sometimes help one’s tinnitus, according to a study (Sullivan, M., Katon W., Russo J., Dobie R., & Sakai C.). For Nate, though, they didn’t help at all, and the nortriptyline might’ve been spiking his tinnitus.
Later on, he also had his sinuses checked to rule out pressure issues, and everything looked fine. Nevertheless, the doctor prescribed a nasal spray to try, but Nate decided to pass on taking it, as the risks of medications are always intimidating for tinnitus and hyperacusis. On his own accord, he also tried N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) and turmeric, too, but neither helped nor hurt, he said. NAC can sometimes help with ear trauma, according to a study (Chang, Po-Hsiung, Lui, Chia-Wei, Hung, Shih-Han, & Kang, Yi-No). And turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory.
At Michigan Ear Institute, Nate was formerly diagnosed with tinnitus and hyperacusis. The neurologist thoroughly evaluated the history and structure of his ears, but nothing odd was ever found. Another ENT doctor that he later visited checked his hearing again, and everything — yet again — looked normal. At Nate’s request, the doctor wrote a note to tell his workplace that working from home would be necessary due to his conditions. However, that request was later rejected by the company. And therefore, his position as a cyber security analyst would come to an end with that company. But he later found a new work-from-home job in cyber security.
During the tenure of his struggles, adopting a protocol of safety would prove to be so useless. Plugging up from early on and dodging dangerous noise, he truly thought those careful acts would really be enough. But the loudness of life and the world would quickly show just how common sound is, and prove to be impossible when you have noxacusis. For example, Nate experienced a bad setback in May of 2023 when he visited a hospital for 4 days — to witness the birth of his newborn son.
Unfortunately, the people and machines were just too much: the bothersome beeping of tones for the EEG and vital signs that monitored his wife, and the sensor machine for the baby, or the cardiopulmonary monitor. Nate was wearing protection during the whole visit, both earplugs and muffs. Nevertheless, severe jaw, ear, and face pain resulted. While there, he used CBD oil for a couple days to remedy this pain, but it wasn’t good enough. By day 3, the pain was too severe, resulting in a prolonged setback.
The befuddling nature of nox has truly taken Nate to hell and back, but back he always goes. But what really caused this? This seismic condition is really confusing. For Nate and noxacusis, questions abound. Somehow, warring with the universe became a real thing. Being allergic to sound is like being allergic to life itself. But why was he affected? And what the heck is happening inside his frail body? He notes that so many friends did the same or more in life, but don’t have noxacusis, or even horrid tinnitus: “I even did loud stuff with friends who already had mild tinnitus, and they did far more than I ever have or ever will, like shooting guns without protection, being next to jets while they’re taking off, being involved in car accidents, taking meds a lot, and drinking alcohol.”
The fact that so many people do the same things in life but don’t get ear problems is really baffling. Nate is right. It poses so many questions. But all those questions will go unanswered for now, and the awful paradox will sadly keep growing, keep thriving, keep ravaging his life. It’s a cosmic battle more or less ’cause sound is everywhere, deep inside the framework. It’s truly paradoxical when sound is just an allergen, causing endless pain. So all bets are off, and Nate is now a slave. He loathes that harsh epiphany, and hates it to the core.
“They’re murderous. The pain. The ringing. The not talking. The lack of any music, or going out with people. The not enjoying anything ’cause sound is tortuous. It’s unbelievable. The outside world is really off limits, so the list is endless. I’m just rotting, dying, and hiding in a room. It’s cold to think about. The ‘could haves’ and ‘should haves.’ The physical torture and harsh regrets are too much. They make me ill. I still had so much more to do and life was just beginning. I built the foundation, but now that doesn’t matter.”
Not surprisingly, when tracing the footsteps of noxacusis, major regrets are haunting Repke, as he notes that a lifetime of bad behaviors likely encouraged this nightmare to happen; for example, cutting grass with no protection; neither earplugs nor earmuffs were used. And occasionally, he’d also use power tools or loud machines and did not wear protection. Another mistake was going to bars and loud restaurants, or going to concerts a few times. One, he noted, was super loud and deadly, exceeding the comfort and safety of most concerts, even for a healthy man whose ears were so immaculate before this hell would decimate the fabric of reality. And he’d also attend some sporting events for the Pistons and Lions in Detroit.
Band practice at a friend’s house was also something that likely provided the means for subsequent damage to happen. That same night, he went to a club. In hindsight, these patterns were common. But now, with life destroyed, they haunt him to the core. He also continued to use a deck sander, though he utilized earplugs for that. One time, he was with a friend who blasted music so loud that harsh vibrations shook the car. And another time, he also blasted music himself while driving. He went to an IMAX movie — Top Gun: Maverick — and noted it was loud, too. And one night, his wife came up behind him, but he was not aware. She planned to startle him, with jokeful motivations. So, using her hands, she cupped his fragile ears, but when she pulled away, that pressure change attacked him, causing pain inside the ear that nox was present in.
And after he had gotten nox in 2022, he continued to go out and live life. He used protection, though, but it wasn’t enough. It makes his heart so sorrowful to know that all those life events have dug a deeper hole now — one he can’t escape. For example, he attended the baby shower for his son with earplugs only. Things like that, he says, have probably cultivated the damage necessary to reach a state that’s catastrophic.
The devastation is truly unparalleled. Nate — as a father — sometimes has trouble with the noise of his newborn. So it hampers that relationship. Nox is so evil that people are like kryptonite or hard to be around. For some victims, they’ve completely lost their children, as kids are often noisy. So mothers can’t be mothers, and fathers can’t be fathers. It’s cruel and super tragic. It’s otherworldly. It’s unbelievable. It’s hell on planet Earth.
His wife is also suffering, watching her once-healthy husband wither away. But nonetheless, there’s nothing she can do. She’s powerless to intercede and stop this vile hell. She likened the experience to watching someone suffering inside a lazaretto, or convalescent home — a life consigned to misery, where things will never be the same. That is nox and tinnitus when symptoms are severe. But the Repke household is still hoping that someday treatments will come. Until then, however, they’re forced to fight and suffer hard, and trek into the future, dodging sound at every turn, but losing every day.
“I think about it often — every single day. The loud stuff. Cutting lawns. Using power tools. That awful wheel bearing. The club and theater. The music and the phone. I held it to my ear and got blasted … something so innocent and normal. I slowly ruined my life with my own hands, step by step, though everything had seemed normal in hindsight. I did stuff that everyone does, but for some reason, it ruined me. If only I had known this, that nox can really happen, then things would be okay. Prevention could’ve happened.”
His words are super tragic. Reckless behaviors from past events, coupled with too much sound exposure when nox set in, were likely the factors responsible for all these permanent worsenings. These things built up and ruined Nate, slowly over time, robbing the remnants of what remained before he sadly lost it all, and leaving him with tinnitus, severe in every way; an electrical noise that he hears 24/7; a sound that wiped out silence. Had he known to wear earplugs or earmuffs when doing loud activities, and also that more than just hearing loss can happen to your ears, then he would be okay, he says. “Whatever you do, avoid loud stuff and protect your ears at all times. Health is really wealth. And once your hearing goes, you never get it back. Learn from my mistakes.”
For now, the power of nox defiles him, taking everything. If he could have a second chance, he’d get up, dust off, and wave goodbye to planet Hell — that realm of noxacusis. But now he can’t do anything since nox is fully sovereign. He’s stuck inside a prison cell, a 6′ by 8′ catastrophe that’s full of splintered dreams. So it’s hard to shake that rigid dust when life is just a paradigm of suffering and torture, when soot and filth and particles are demon-like in every way, blocking life eternally and burning this reality until it meets a shallow grave … his story, like a legend, Rashomon in character and foreign to the masses. He might as well be nothing, ’cause “something,” he can’t be. It’s hard to feel confident when dust is everywhere. For all intents and purposes, he’s powder in the wind.
This article was written by J. D. Rider.
Leung, Marcia A., Flaherty, Anna, Zhang, Julia A., Hara, Jared, Barber, Wayne, & Burgess, Lawrence. “Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Primary Care Update.” Hawaii J Med Public Health. 2016 June, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4928516/.
Sullivan, M., Katon W., Russo J., Dobie R., & Sakai C. “A randomized trial of nortriptyline for severe chronic tinnitus. Effects on depression, disability, and tinnitus symptoms.” Arch Intern Med. 1993, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8215728/.
Chang, Po-Hsiung, Lui, Chia-Wei, Hung, Shih-Han, & Kang, Yi-No. “Effect of N-acetyl-cysteine in prevention of noise-induced hearing loss: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” Arch Med Sci. 2022, https://www.archivesofmedicalscience.com/Effect-of-N-acetyl-cysteine-in-prevention-of-noise-induced-hearing-loss-a-systematic,109126,0,2.html.