My health condition may be invisible, but it absolutely isn’t silent.

Going through security at an airport the other day (I can’t remember if it was Singapore of Heathrow), I set off the metal detector, a loud buzzing sound alerting security that they better check me out.

As I was getting a full body pat down, my handbag, patiently sitting next to me waiting for its own inspection, started squealing. Running through the airport at speed had caused the fall rate alarm on my Dex app to sound. Thankfully I’d already explained that to the security guard who was swabbing my insulin pump at the exact moment it elicited three short beeps. ‘Temp basal rate,’ I explained, knowing full well that would make no sense to anyone. ‘Also – diabetes is quite noisy, isn’t it?

She smiled at me as her own machine, which had finished analysing the swab announced that I was safe, and not a danger to anyone other than myself when near a handbag store at any airport. ‘You’re good to go.’

I’ve customised my Dex alerts to vibrate rather than ring out – except for the fall rate alert (as it is a brilliant way to help prevent lows), and the urgent low alarm, which cannot be turned off or set to vibrate. But even with the vibrate settings activated, there is still noise. And while the urgent low alarm very rarely makes an appearance these days (reason I love Loop #2,394,821), when it does, it’s piercing!

I quite like the comfort of my pump alerting to let me know when Loop has activated a temp basal rate (pretty much most of the time….). It’s not a loud and intrusive alarm, so the three beeps are very much background.

There are the constant sounds of diabetes that have become very much the soundtrack to my life: the gentle clunk of my lancet device; the pop when I open a box of strips and the sharp snap as I close it; the clicks as I push a CGM sensor into my arm, retract the needle, and then place the transmitter into the sensor; the beeps indicating my pump line is priming. There’s the sound of lows: a straw being pushed into a juice box after being released from its plastic wrap, and the subsequent quick slurping; the ripping of paper being unwound from around a tube of fruit pastilles,

I’ve just spent a couple of days with friends with diabetes, and there’s something undeniably comforting about hearing others’ sounds of diabetes. Even more comforting is the way we all generally ignore those sounds. No one ever jumps when we hear the low alarm from someone else’s Dex. We trusting that they’ll deal with it in their own time and way (and also know that the last thing they would want is someone treating them like a child and fussing). We just hear it, maybe look up, maybe not. Although sometimes…

‘Is that you or me?’ one of us will say when we hear a CGM alarm.

‘That’s definitely not me…Is that you? What is that?’ we’ll say when hearing an unfamiliar alert from a device that’s different to our own.

‘That’s not you, or me…’ I said the other night whilst sitting in a restaurant, knowing it wasn’t coming from our table. ‘Does someone else in here have diabetes?’

Often we become immune to the sounds of our own diabetes. Those sounds that are there to alert us to a low battery or the need for more insulin in our pumps easily get ignored, until the urgent wailing which indicates that our portable pancreas needs more juice (of the battery or insulin kind) NOW, and the only way we can stop it is to respond.

I used to sleep through hours of low alarms, only realising they would have been ringing out the following morning when I checked my Dex trace. And Aaron too had become impervious to them after a while, and stopped waking…and then waking me…when I was low at night.

There have been times that I have been going along doing my thing and it’s taken someone to say ‘Do you need to do something about whatever is beeping?’ to even realise that diabetes was talking to me.

And sometimes, it takes hearing another PWD’s sounds of diabetes to acknowledge and respond to our own. (Another benefit of peer support!)

But even if it seems that we stop hearing the sounds of diabetes, it’s indisputable that it is a noisy beast. Which I guess makes sense. Because exactly in the same way that our condition is never really invisible to those of us living with it, it is never silent either.

Shush now.