Answer: a perforated eardrum.
OK it doesn't spoil it too much, but I have to be a bit careful with how I set the volume control.
Right now, my ears are surrounded with a strange humming sound, similar to the sound made by your kitchen fridge when you plug it in. Occasionally, this humming is joined by whistling and/or bell ringing, all to the rhythm of my pulse rate.
I first felt all this Friday evening, and after two sleepless nights, I decided Sunday afternoon to head to the nearest hospital Accident and Emergency Dept to get either a complete cure or at least something to make me sleep at night. Anyway, I knew I wasn't going to be back at work Monday.
This was the first time in my life I had presented myself at an A+E hoping for treatment; I was also perfectly aware that my case was not necessarily an "emergency", because I knew that I was not likely to drop dead within half an hour.
I got there about 4.30 pm, registered at A+E Reception, and then about fifteen minutes later I was called into what they call an Assessment room. I told my story to a gentleman in a green surgical gown who told me that there were several people ahead of me, and it would be several hours before I would be treated.
So I went back home, had some dinner, and went back to the hospital to wait through the pain; I got back there about 7.30 pm, and I was called to see a doctor at 0140 am.
Now I have been prescribed anti-biotics, so I no longer suffer pain and at least I can sleep a bit at night. I will take this week off work, and I am awaiting the setting-up of an appointment with an ear specialist, but God only knows when that will be.
A lot of people in Ireland complain about what is known as the "two-tiered health system"; i.e., one category of health service for those who can afford it, and one for the normal punters, such as what I went through Sunday evening.
But I have come to the conclusion that in Ireland, the main reason why we have a two-tiered health system is because there are quite a number of people who want it that way. And if the two tiers here were brought much closer together, I predict that a certain class of people will go abroad in order to be treated as the superior class of person they think they are.
Sorry if I sound like I am waving a red flag.