Sounds of Silence

I should be over my rotten cold by now. It’s been more than a week, for crying out loud! For those of you who read last week’s entry, I’m happy to report that my childhood friend was happy to get together for a rare Boston visit, despite my emerging symptoms. But by Thursday, I tanked. Not only was I sneezing and coughing. I lost my voice.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. We had a big weekend, celebrating one of my brother-in-law’s 70th birthday, with family visiting from all over the country. And I wanted to be there, and I could not just sit there. So I whispered and croaked through conversations. We hosted my other brother-in-law and one of his daughters as house guests, and both Mindi and Emily were home, too. It was great. Except I really shouldn’t have been using my voice, and I probably set myself back several days.

So now I’m doing my best to keep silent. This is not easy for a woman who is very verbal. On the one hand, it’s been a blessing to have a quiet house to work in so far this week. I can express myself via email and text messages and writing for clients, as well as through my own creative writing.

On the other hand, I can’t talk on the phone with anyone or conduct a meeting or get together with a friend or have a simple conversation with Al. Every time I speak, he tells me (with more than a hint of pleasure) that I need to rest my voice. He’s right, of course. There is no way to heal laryngitis other than silence. Even whispering is damaging (as Emily informed me via an article from Scientific American).

So over dinner Monday night, I wrote Al notes on a yellow pad and he spoke in response. Interesting way to communicate—totally different rhythm. At least I didn’t have to repeat myself. I wish I knew sign language.

I’m experiencing silence at another level, as well, because my left ear is blocked up. Even as my sinuses are finally clearing, my ear is not, yet. So external sounds like music on the radio are a bit muffled, although certain soft noises are quite clear (a dripping faucet, crinkling paper). And eating or brushing my teeth is amplified—as well as my tinitus. The ringing is really loud.

Scleroderma adds a layer of complexity, of course. Since I have Sjogren’s syndrome, I have to think very carefully about how to use decongestants, trading off the boomerang risks of nasal sprays with the discomfort of making dry mouth worse at night. Too much oral decongestant sets off my Raynaud’s. Adhesive nasal strips at night help my breathing but can irritate the delicate skin on my nose. Most of all, I need to do whatever is necessary to get a good night’s sleep. On and on it goes. Hard to be patient.

Fortunately (I certainly hope), my voice and hearing loss are transitory. But it surely makes me appreciate the challenges that those who live with permanent speech or hearing impairments have to deal with every day. I’m also very grateful to be able to work for myself at home and not lose income because I can’t report to an office setting when I feel this way.

Okay, enough complaining. Thanks for listening, Dear Reader, and may you avoid a rotten spring cold of your own. Be well.

Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at

Image Credit: David Di Biase

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