The HELL of tinnitis

I’d been clogged for days. A cold, I thought. Nasally congested. A little sinus trouble. It affected the hearing in my good ear, as if I had fluid pressure on my eardrum. I told myself, “Ahhh, it’ll pass.” Drank some warm water, chased it with Theraflu. Crawled back in bed.

That was Thursday. (It’s Sunday as I write this.) On Friday I woke up late in the morning with a low ringing in my ear. No biggie: this had happened to me before. Four or five minutes, as soon as I move around, it’ll be gone. I went to the bathroom to take a piss, crawled back in bed, picked up the novel I’d been reading the previous night, and read some more. It was ten minutes before I realized it hadn’t stopped yet.

It’s Sunday. The ringing still won’t stop.

The house is pretty quiet. I’ve been especially conspicuous about the lack of noise around me, except what I hear inside my head. I’ve also noticed I’m not hearing as well as I should. I’m in the front room downstairs, but I can’t really hear the traffic pass outside. It rained last night, so tires on slick roads should be easy to hear.

In my left ear, where I’m obstinsively deaf, the noise is there but easily ignorable. In my right ear, the one I rely on for communication, the noise is an extremely high-pitched, incessant, implactable and constant whine. It blares like the Emergency Broadcast System turned up to such a high-pitch it’s just above the threshold of auditory awareness.

It won’t stop.

Okay, when I’m in the shower, it stops. And when I cut on the bathroom sink, it’s still there, but drowned in the gushing water. When I move in close to the faucet, all I hear is water. When I step back, there’s a moment of numbness, and then the whine starts up again in earnest. I can’t hang out in the bathroom forever. I’ve been picking up the phone a lot and not dialing anyone, just listening to the dial tone.

Nights are the worst. All I do is catnap since I can’t sleep for the ringing. I haven’t left the house since Friday afternoon; I may venture out today.

Information I screen on-line about tinnitis is severely depressing. My mouth falls open as I read about people suffering from this for 10, 20 YEARS, the nerve-wracking suffering, the indifference of doctors. There’s treatments, but no definitive cures, no real understanding of what causes it… Wait – Capt. Kirk has tinnitis and HE can’t get rid of it? A lot of these “treatments” sound like poppycock. Acupuncture? Magnetism? Gilko Balboa? Christ, I want superdrugs or surgery.

I read up the causes of tinnitis and groan when I see how many apply to me. Loud noises? Stress? Terrific.

Of course I’m under stress: I’m unemployed. Not only am I wondering how I can afford medical treatment for this, I’m worried I may have a permanent whine in my ear and how’s THAT gonna help me get a job?

I’d been blaring MP3s on my headphone set a lot lately: lots of R&B, hip-hop, plenty of bass. I even fell asleep sometimes with my headset on. Did that do it?

I’d been downing a lot of over-the-counter medications: Theraflu, Alka-Seltzer Cold Gels, CVS ibuprofen capsules. Some of this stuff I haven’t used before. Did that do something adverse to me?

I thought about my diet: nothing out of the ordinary… although I did cut back on dairy products as a precaution.

All I know is LAST Sunday I could hear fine, and I had no ringing in my ears. Then suddenly, out of the blue, this.

Tomorrow I hope to see an Ear/Nose/Throat specialist, hope the hell s/he can do something to stop this. I want a cure, a fix, something to get me back to normal.

Because it HAS to stop.

And your question is…?

Not what you want to hear, but I’ve had it for years. So has my mother. And I didn’t have it when I was younger. Drove me batty when it first started happening, now it’s just background noise that I don’t notice unless I specifically listen for it. It’s possible to just get used to it.

Some cold medications can give you ringing in the ears. I’d suggest stop taking them and see if it goes away. It’s probably just blocked up ears from your cold. I sure hope it goes away. If symptoms like ringing in just one ear or a feeling of “fullness” in the ear persist, you really REALLY should see your doctor. Your doctor will probably give you and MRI to make sure you don’t have an acoustic neuroma, which is definitely something you want to catch early.
I really do hope your tinnitus doesn’t become a problem, I have it and you do get used to it after a few years (ha) but it is still really annoying. Nobody really knows what causes it so nobody really has any successful treatments. You should probably reduce exposure to loud headphones as this particularly aggravates tinnitus. There is a treatment to mask tinnitus by playing a special program of noises into the ears to “reprogram” your response to tinnitus, but the tradeoff is that you must avoid headphones or amplified music sources or the treatment will stop working. And in any case, it doesn’t really stop the tinnitus, it’s just a therapy to stop you from noticing it so much.

Hey A.K.,
It’s not all bad.
I, like Yabob, have had it for years. It’s just like the high frequency hiss of the old vinyl LPs that we grew up on, fairly easy to tolerate if you are used to it.

The only time it’s a problem, is when I am subjected to silence.

Then it’s like the chorus of a thousand cicadas…kinda makes it feel like summertime all year long.

Man, you got that right! I’ve had it for years and have read a bit; enough to know that the pros don’t know all potential causes but suspect there’s more than one. I vaguely remember (sorry, no cite) reading of one variant where the examining physician, if he got close enough, could hear it. Yikes!

Most uf us just get used to it.

If this all came into being with the recent sickness it may well be gone shortly. Good luck with it!

I’ve had it for years and have somewhat gotten used to it. There are some things that seem to make it worse and should be avoided…sugar, aspirin and Quinine. The first two are fairly easy to stay away from but if you’re a lover of Gin and Tonics (as I am), it’s torture. I went on a Gin binge a couple of weeks ago and it took a week for the train to stop running in my head.

I’ve got it too.

When it first started I thought I was going to go nuts. I went to an ear nose and throat specialist and he basicly said"Oh well, most people get it. How old are you?" His suggestion for putting up with it was to listen to white noise,the static hiss of a FM radio ,when it gets bad.

I don’t want to be the bearer of bad tidings but I have it in both ears and it never goes away. You do sort of get used to it though.
It is worse when I’m trying to study. I’ve pretty much given up on much of that, at least the heavy,figure this out, stuff.

I’ve noticed if I relax the muscles in my neck and shoulders it helps some.
Sleeping was a problem for me until I got “used” to it.

One thing it may drive you nuts for a while but it is a long way from your heart.
good luck

I’ll add that while I’ve experienced it for manny years, my ears do occasionally “go off the air” - i.e., fall silent for a bit. And sometimes it really cranks up. I’ve never noted any correlation with environmental factors.

Got it too. It’s a bitch.

Check out - (ATA = American Tinnitus Association). also has some helpful advice, especially if you’re a musician.

Although the physiological causes aren’t completely known, a very high percentage (around 90%) of sufferers have a noise-induced hearing loss. So turn the stereo down and tell your drummer to use brushes.


August West: The main purpose of this post was to bitch and moan about this and pray the problem (Day 3) would go away by itself – but it hasn’t. I also hoped to indirectly ask a few questions about treatments and hope somebody would chime in with a magic remedy or a “Your problem sounds just like mine!” or “TheraFlu is known to produce this side-effect.” Yeah, I’m grasping at straws.

I pooh-poohed some of the things I’d learned on-line about herbal treatments that supposedly help, but even so right now I’m trying a ACV-honey concoction in hopes it’ll help unclog any mucous in my sinuses. I admit, it seems to help – the noise isn’t quite so blaring as it was earlier – but I’m also hoping I’m not simply becoming accustomed to it.

The BIGGEST problem is not being able to work in silence. I like it quiet when I write, and when I’m trying to get some sleep, and right now it annoys me I’ve got this phantom noise that won’t turn off. I haven’t done more than catnap since Friday morning.

WHY – if this is such a common sensory problem, hasn’t medical science attacked it more vigorusly? I read that the American Tinnitus Association awards a million bucks in grants each year for studies into tinnitis rememdies. ONE million? Tom Hanks gets TWENTY FIVE just for looking noble on-screen. What a joke!

But for beatle, Chas.E, D18 and others - I appreciate the honesty and the hope.

I saw on Tomorrows World (BBC programme about new inventions) a couple of years ago an invention which was designed to alleviate tinnitis. They got this DJ to try it out. Basically it’s a device that emits a high pitch whine which you adjust until it matches the pitch of the ringing in your ear. Tinnitis is when the tiny hairs in your ear become less straight than they should be. This device is designed to vibrate the hairs at the exact frequency your tinnitis is ringing at and thus straighten them. The bloke tried it and it did help him, but what has happened since then is anybody’s guess since I’ve not heard of/seen any follow ups.

I’ve had it myself after going to clubs and gigs but it has always been temporary. I sympathise with you Askia I really do.

Askia - Try to get to a doctor. He should be able to give you medicine to relieve the pressure in your ear. This will reduce or even stop the ringing.

You can also take guaifenesin for the congestion. This is a mucous thinner used in cough syrup. Get some plain cough syrup that lists this as the only active ingredient and use it. If you go to the doctor he can prescribe stronger guaifenesin which will really dry you up. It’s great!

White noise will help mask the sound of the ringing. I know how you feel about wanting silence, but I’ve learned that silence is no longer my friend. Do laundry or run the dishwasher while you study. This will help mask the ringing, but it’s a sound you’re used to so it shouldn’t distract you.

Try not to worry. Your problem is almost certainly temporary. Once that ear clears the ringing will stop.

Fiendish Astronaut - I’ve heard about that treatment too. Supposedly William Shatner got it, and it helped him. He got tinnitus during his Star Trek years, because of all the explosions.

There is also some new treatment using a laser to stand the tiny hairs inside the ear back up again. I haven’t heard about this one in a while, but I hope it works. I think it was still in the experimental phase.