Ah, summer, the time of year when you can finally sit outside with a cup of tea or enjoy a good book under your favourite tree. Until one of the neighbours starts to cut their grass with a whipper-snipper or some young'un cranks up an incomprehensible tune on their car stereo. In general I don't mind such noises much because I experience my own personal noise all the time and I'm happy to have it masked for a while.
I suffer from severe tinnitus, which is the perception of sound in one's ear when there is no sound present. It is mainly caused by damage to the inner ear; in my case it was a childhood ear infection that was treated too late, resulting in the loss of 50% of my hearing. As I've gotten older the tinnitus has gradually become more bothersome.
The condition is different for everyone. Sounds that are typically "heard" include ringing, buzzing, or whooshing. The most common form that it takes for me is a constant high-pitched whine in my right ear, and intermittent whooshing sounds in my left ear. I have learned how to tune it out for the most part, or sometimes I mask it with soft music, but at night when the house is quiet it occasionally prevents me from falling asleep.
There is no known cure or treatment for this. It can only be managed via sound therapy or relaxation techniques. The phantom sounds never go away completely, they're like the neighbour that always mows the lawn at 6 AM on a Saturday morning when everyone else is sleeping: annoying and unwelcome.
I haven't experienced true silence in many years and it's likely that I will never be able to again.