The Sound of Silence

Finding comfort in the soundtrack of my diabetes.

Kerri SparlingBy

October 2012 — Silence in my house is a coveted and rare thing. My husband and I are darting in and out of conference calls during the day, and there's always some kind of music on. My daughter is learning to truly test her vocal cords and her vocabulary, babbling and bopping around the house all day long. (And there are our stupid cats who occasionally climb the screen door, begging to be let in the house.) It's a circus of lunacy in my home at all times, and the soundtrack is always cranked up to eleven.

It's that well-worn tale of Pavlov and his crazy dogs, the ones that he trained to expect treats whenever a bell was rung. And whether or not the treats were offered, the dogs learned to respond by salivating, waiting.

Diabetes has made me one of Pavlov's dogs. But instead of the chimes of a bell triggering salivation, it's the sound of the Top Gun theme song coming from my insulin pump, making me check the status of my battery. Or the sound of my Dexcom letting loose with a BEEEEEEEP!, making me reach for my glucose meter. The sounds of diabetes are so ingrained in my brain that I don't think before responding. My reaction to certain sounds is visceral.

Sometimes the sounds of my diabetes are subtle — the quiet beep of my meter while it counts down to my blood sugar result, or the shunk of the Inset going into my skin on pump site change day. It's these sounds that I can hear in a quiet classroom as though they're magnified; they funnel straight into my ears.

Added to the regularly scheduled noise is the soundtrack of my diabetes. THE NOISE! The BEEEEEP! of my Dexcom when my blood sugars are out of range, or that song ringing from my Ping when the battery needs to be changed.

You'd think that these noises would keep me up all night. You'd think the bings and beeps and blaring horns of diabetes management devices would make insomniacs out of me and my family, our eyes constantly bleary from the noise.

But they're oddly comforting. The beep of my meter before bedtime? Means I tested, and that it's safe to sleep. The alarms on the Dexcom are necessary, and warn me of out-of-range moments. The whirring and churning of my diabetes devices are a reminder that yes, I have diabetes, but yes, I am trying. Every beep is one of success, no matter what the cause, because it's sounding the alarm of my efforts.

The truly Pavlovian response comes out when I hear these noises in the wild. Like when the beeping Dexcom isn't mine, but belonging to a stranger in the crowd. I remember one time, while sitting on an airplane, I heard the distinct "boop beep boop" of a Medtronic insulin pump from a few seats behind me. And my instinctive response was this rising urge to find, and then hug, that person.

...I guess it's better than drooling on them.

Visit Kerri's website.


dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.

Last Modified Date: June 14, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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