I have a confession to make.
After a lifetime of hearing loss and two years of head noise I still get stressed about it. To be honest, it’s mostly about the tinnitus and hyperacusis. I look back to the days before head noise, when I was “just” severely hard of hearing and think, “Wow, life was great back then”.
I know my hearing loss will never go away, and that’s OK; with a hearing aid and a cochlear implant, I hear better than ever. But I’ve also come to realize that nothing, short of my leaving this world, will ever make the roaring double whammy that I’ll call tinni-cusis go away, either. And really? That’s not OK.
Living with it is stressful. And it stresses me out even more to hear my husband and audiologists confirm that I’m stressed. I don’t like seeing the Hearing Husband worry about me. They say that anxiety is a leading (although not the only) cause of tinni-cusis, but it goes further than that. Anxiety causes tinni-cusis, which causes its own stress which then makes tinni-cusis worse. Now really – is that a classic vicious circle, or what?
Many of us want to think of ourselves as strong and in control – and to have others regard us the same way. If I’m not in control, am I a quivering mess?
No. It just means that I need help to deal with it. Sheer will can’t change a health situation for which there is currently no cure or quick fix, but that’s not the only way to get through this. What was it that man wrote?
God grant me the serenity to
Accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things that I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.
(Note: In Alcoholics Anonymous, where these words by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr are an underlying philosophy, God is defined as what you believe him/her/it to be. I leave it to you.)
So here I go.
Accept what I can’t change: I have tinni-cusis. There’s no universal, medical cure. I have it now and may have it forever.
Courage to change what I can: If I sit here and sob and wail, however silently, things will be exactly the same tomorrow. When the sun comes up, so will the tinni-cusis. But there are things I can do to make it more tolerable. There are ways to reduce its power over my life. What are they?
Wisdom to distinguish one from the other. Those ‘ways’ take research, time and commitment. I can’t wish tinni-cusis away, or punch it in the face. I can’t sleep, eat, drink, or drug it away. I’ll take a break from my moaning and groaning and look into the resources that might just work.
Where to start? A list of resources to gather information and to form a game plan might include:
- Health professionals – your audiologist and family doctor – who can refer you to programs such as Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, etc.
- Internet forums on Tinnitus and Hyperacusis. (And believe 1 in 10 of the things you read about cures, especially expensive ones that offer your money back if you’re not 100% satisfied.)
- Books and blogs by people who’ve been there and done that. Katherine Bouton. Shari Eberts. Me. I’m also reading enjoying Rewiring Tinnitus by Glenn Schweitzer.
- Support groups like HLAA and Action on Hearing Loss. It helps to listen to what works for other people and what doesn’t.
- Your audiologist – yes, we’re circling back to this person who can help you create a game plan that works.
And while you’re collecting resources, put some effort into reduce the short-term stress.
- Exercise as much as you comfortably can. At the very least you will sleep better (a common problem with tinnitus sufferers), with the added benefit of better muscle tone.
- Breathing exercises. Meditation (here’s a great piece by Shari Eberts). Yoga.
- Try to laugh loud and long, even if it bothers your ears. According to helpguide.org, a good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes. It also decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting. So do it, go for a big belly laugh.
- Walk in the woods. This is a great activity that allows you do all of the above – exercise, breathe deeply and regularly, and do some yoga stretches along the way. Maybe laugh. Also good for building firm calves.
- Focus on something – anything – that engages you. A good book (not about tinni-cusis or hearing loss). A movie. A game of cards. Playing with the kids or grandkids.
Have you learned anything new in this article? Maybe not, except maybe to realize that at least one other person knows what you’re going through. That counts for something.
Excuse me while I do some deep-breathing….