Ring, ring: now hear this

Posted on 20 November 2019 by admin

I have tinnitus. It’s something that puts strange sounds in the way of normal hearing.
Nobody knows the cause. Long exposure to loud noises is often cited. Or an explosion. But I haven’t experienced any of those things, and still I have tinnitus.
Generally, tinnitus is known as ringing in the ears. But mine is like the ocean, consistently lapping at the edge of hearing, wiping out what’s normal. Sometimes it almost, but not quite, resembles buzzing. Sometimes it sounds like operatic music. When I can actually identify my favorite aria from “The Pearl Fishers,” I know it’s my brain behind all this.
People ask me, “How long has this been going on?” I have no answer. It seems like I’ve had it forever…
And there’s no cure. I now have new hearing aids that make sounds designed to block out the tinnitus, and they do help me hear much more clearly. But the sounds they make by themselves — like ring tones — are constant, and annoying in themselves. I have broken the bank to get aids that offer peace and quiet along with two types of ring tones — loud, and louder.
Does all this bother me? Of course! But what bothers me even more is how the name of this malady is pronounced. As a word person, I want the correct answer! I have always called it TINNitus, emphasis on the first syllable. That used to be standard in the medical field. But in recent years, tinnEYEtus — with emphasis on the middle syllable — has become the vogue. When I consult with a hearing professional these days, there’s an unspoken battle going on: Neither of us will back down and change the way we say the name of the problem we’re discussing. And I’ve been seeing a lot of those professionals recently, as the problem is growing worse, sometimes reaching the point where my watery sound blocks out everything else.
But — guess what? The word person I am renders me almost as concerned about the problem’s name as I am with the problem itself. Doctors out there — not just audiologists: Please tell me what you say these days!
Now, as winter approaches, I’m also trying to put my question into the context of the coming Jewish holidays. How do you pronounce the name of our eight-candled menorah celebration? CHUNakah, maybe? Or HUNakah? Maybe you are old and Orthodox or young and Reform, but those affiliations don’t seem to cause differences in pronunciation; I know people in each of the above groups who say the word in each of the above ways. Dropping that difficult-for-some guttural sound in favor of the easier “hun” is a choice, and so, I guess, is that between tinEYEtus and TINNitus.
Or how about our modern-day drift from Good (or Gut) Shabbos to Shabbat Shalom? I don’t argue about these; I’m almost afraid to approach discussion of them. Maybe there’s something going on similar to what I often did in college: give back-of-throat “CHA” lessons to my non-Jewish friends who were finding it a necessity to know German as a prerequisite for getting into medical school.
Maybe next year I’ll try focusing on ShavuOTE vs. ShavVUus, or SimchaS vs. SimchaT Torah. I think the linguistic battle lines were drawn somewhere between old Eastern European Yiddish and modern Israeli Hebrew. That’s an easy answer to my questions about us. But for that bothersome other question of how the non-Jewish world says our Jewish words, it’s more like that old song: You say toMAYto, and I say toMAHto, and never the twain shall meet. I remember once tuning into a Christian radio broadcast that turned Hanukkah into ChaNOOKa. And Yom KippUR became a herring: Yom Kipper. But I guess a lot of us say it that way, too, don’t we?
My own problem’s name, no matter how it’s pronounced, comes from the Latin verb tinnire: “to ring.” And now, I have that with ring tones!

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