This paper is a qualitative study of metaphors at the levels of lexico-encyclopedic conceptual (LEC) metaphors (Johansson Falck 2018, forthc.) in nineteenth-century medical records of tinnitus and hearing disorders by English-speaking (the UK and the US) practitioners. Metaphor is essential for the linguistic and conceptual expression of illness (Semino 2008: 175) and, as we observe, remains endemic for the description of tinnitus in medical records. Our primary aim is to identify the metaphors used to describe the sounds of tinnitus, the kinds of experiences involved in these metaphorical conceptualizations and the cognitive and affording presence of tinnitus metaphors. The results suggest that metaphor provides a framework for the analogical reasoning about tinnitus and the methods of its treatment. Nineteenth-century accounts of ear diseases reference the sounds of biological and non-biological natural categories, transport and industrial sounds, the sounds of domestic interiors and music.
Metaphorical descriptions of tinnitus sounds connect with the affordances of the environment (Gibson 2015) and are inherent to the location and occupation of the patient. As our findings support the historical explorations of tinnitus accounts, they make it possible to contribute to our current understanding of tinnitus by highlighting the importance of a patient-centered approach and establishing the significance of metaphor analysis in tinnitus studies.