Gemma Cairns, a 32-year-old woman from Scotland, can’t remember the last time she experienced total silence. Even in the absence of outside noises, she can hear everything going on inside her body, from blood pumping through her veins, to the movements of her eyes.
Cairns has been able to hear noises coming from inside her body for as long as she can remember, but she only realized it was unusual after mentioning it to her mother as a teenager. She’s been looking for explanations ever since, but until three years ago, doctors couldn’t properly diagnose her condition and only prescribed her medication for blocked ears and nasal problems. Nothing worked, and the young woman had to get used to the idea that she would never learn what was wrong with her. Luckily, she moved to Glasgow in 2016, and was able to see a specialist who finally diagnosed her with bilateral superior semicircular canal dehiscence.
The rare condition means that Gemma is missing part of a tiny temporal bone in both her ear canals, which impacts both her hearing and her balance when moving around. Doctors recommended that she undergo surgery as soon as possible in order to fix the problem, but after getting her right ear fixed last September, she will have to wait until next month to hopefully experience silence for the first time.