I have tinnitus, that annoying ringing in the ears experienced by 20% of the world's population. Not a ringing in my case, but a persistent high tone reminiscent of television sets of the 1950s and 60s. There is no cure, and its cause is the subject of much speculation. Age is apparently a factor, and the fact that my frolicking and carousing days are far behind me contributes to my fate.
Although I'm pretty much able to tune out the incessant buzzing (not literally; there's no knob on my forehead), I've noticed lately that its volume ebbs and flows over time. There are days when I barely notice the tone; there are others when it's like listening to squealing brakes or an angry mosquito. From everything I've heard, tinnitus increases gradually and can't be reversed, so what the hell?
I got to thinking about what I've been doing recently that may be contributing to the fluctuating volume of the insects in my head. After ruling out injuries or attendance at AC/DC concerts or real bug infestations, I narrowed my speculation to the only lifestyle change I had recently made—embracing the world of gourmet-wannabe cooking and whipping off different creations every night.
Eating itself could not have caused the fluctuation in my inner shrieks; it had to be something particular that I was eating. And then it hit me.
Salt is the one ingredient that every self-respecting Food Network show judge exhorts his charges to use copiously and liberally. "Did you season the fish?" "On both sides?" "I can't taste the salt. Did you use any at all?" I was learning that salt is the Elixir of the Food Gods, the ingredient that magically transforms mundane dishes into competition-winning creations.
So I had been using salt copiously and liberally. A typical meal would include pasta boiled in salted water, flounder seasoned with Himalayan rock salt (on both sides), green beans succulently steamed and doused with salt, and a margarita with salt on the rim. I'm kidding about the margarita.
After this epiphany I consulted the fine gurus at Google, who offered me numerous articles on the dangers of salt, as it appears to inflate blood pressure like a bicycle pump on steroids. Those same gurus helpfully pointed out that tinnitus, that malady with apparently no cause, is actually aggravated by consumption of sodium, as it constricts blood vessels and does other evil things to annoy the mosquitoes in my head.
So now I had a cause for the recent fluctuation of volume of noise in my head. Ah. I was actually hearing my blood pressure rise! And I had a relatively easy solution—cut back on the amount of salt that I had been shoveling onto my food. Not only would the voices in my head be reduced to a whisper, but I would be spared the dreaded coronary and other diseases that accompany high blood pressure and angry mosquitoes in one's head.
I did cut back on salt, and the effect was fairly immediate. The ringing in my ears still fluctuates, probably as a result of other food I'm eating that has sneaky amounts of sodium in it. But I can at least address my tinnitus by watching what goes into my body and reduce the level of complaining that my ears give me as a result.
One small problem: how will I brine my holiday turkey without using salt?