Last night I was awakened at 3:30 a.m. by my lovely wife. “Joe there is a clicking noise I hear and it is keeping me awake.” It took me several minutes to wake up and realize this was not a dream. Then as soon as I stood up at the side of the bed I needed to pee. I finally joined her wide awake to seek out the troubling noise. Before I began, however, I installed my hearing aids. I could have faked the whole search by keeping them hidden in the charger, but I would have felt guilty about it all day.

I quietly walked around the house looking for sources of possible noise. Is the refrigerator door open? No, is it the smoke detector? No, is it outside? Open the door and listen while feeling the cold breeze chill me, no. Room by room we traipsed listening for a noise. I heard nothing even with the aides turned up, Irena heard a faint sound coming from the second bedroom. I picked up the clock, nothing, I opened the window, nothing, I sat on the edge of the bed and listened calmly for a few seconds, nothing. After searching every room this way it was time to head into the basement. Again, I searched every source of possible noise, furnace, water softener, water meter, toilet pump, sump pump, back-up sump pump, nothing.

It was time to tell my story of being awakened several times by a horn that went off in my head in the middle of the night. Each time it happened at the same hour. I walked the house looking for the source of noise. In my case the sound was a dead ringer for the sump-pump backup horn. It is a battery operated pump and when it triggers it also sounds an alarm that sounds much like a siren. Each time I investigated for that noise but the house was silent, but I kept hearing it in my head. Another time, it sounded like water running through a pipe. That time, I actually went outside in the dead of night to see if I left the water running into the pond.

After that incident it occurred to me to put my fingers into my ears and to block out all external noise. The siren kept sounding in my head, and I concluded it was the tinnitus. I have experienced tinnitus, or continuous ringing in my ears for forty years, and I hear it now as I write this. I have become accustomed to the noise and forget about it, but I believe my brain is inventing a new way to get my attention. Most likely a similar thing is happening inside Irena’s head. Or, maybe, she heard Halloween ghosts creeping around the house.

We both calmed down after the fifteen minute shakedown of the house, and went back to sleep.

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