For about 15 per cent of the population, absolute silence is a distant memory. Instead, they are accompanied by constant beeping, buzzing or humming, and the disco is not always to blame. While medicine is looking for causal solutions for tinnitus, new therapies can at least alleviate symptoms.
It is the year 1997. Maurice (name changed by the editors) has been on sick leave for a few days, curing a severe cold in front of a flickering television. He blames the fact that he suddenly can no longer hear the newsreader in one ear on the classic cold symptoms: "blocked nose and ears". The decision not to seek medical treatment immediately will deprive him of any chance of successfully treating the hearing loss – a seemingly causeless, sudden, partial or total deafness, usually in one ear – that he is unknowingly experiencing.
When, a few days later, he is hooked up to an infusion device in hospital that could help prevent permanent hearing damage within the first few hours, the chances of recovery are already slim. A week later, the confirmation: He will have 90 per cent hearing loss in his right ear, probably for the rest of his life. From now on, he will be accompanied by a cacophony of beeping, squeaking, buzzing, humming, and later even voices and birdsong.
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