I Don’t Know What to Say About Tinnitus

I don’t know what to say about tinnitus because it’s an ornery beast. I don’t even like to say the word (tinnitus), because it responds to its name with even more loudness.

OK, maybe I can say a few words about it. Tinnitus is annoying, frustrating, loud, keeps mixing up the sounds and moving from one side to another. It can be scream-inducing and inspires fantasies of head-bashing. It. Never. Stops.

Tinnitus is competitive; it likes to win out over normal sounds, the ones with an identifiable source like that dog over there, that car, that thunderclap. It delights in not showing itself to other people, who can just look at you and have no idea that you’re being tormented by the sound-tapeworm coiled up in your head – at that very moment!

Yes, I can say all that and more – sometimes, when I’m in a why-did-this-have-to-happen-to-me kind of mood, I’ll even ask why couldn’t it happen to that person instead, or that one? Then I realize those people have their own problems, like chronic back pain or cancer and I wouldn’t want those, either. Pain takes different forms and likes to spread itself around. We all have to find a way through.

According to the American Tinnitus Association, tinnitus is not a disease in and of itself, but rather a symptom of some other underlying health condition. In most cases, tinnitus is a sensorineural reaction in the brain to damage in the ear and auditory system. While tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss, there are roughly 200 different health disorders that can generate tinnitus as a symptom.

200 identified causes – wow! I wish there were  200 proven ways to get rid of tinnitus. There have been many claims of success using things that you swallow like ginkgo biloba, melatonin, maritime pine, B12, zinc and, less organically, low to high dosages of anti-depressant/anxiety medication. How about things that you should stop swallowing such as too much coffee or too much alcohol. There are things you can inhale such as medical marijuana or hash oil, or if you like to chew your medication, you can bake those into treats. (Just saying….none of these ingested things have worked for me.)

Let’s not forget the therapies such as cranio-sacral, physiotherapy, biofeedback, chiropractic and masking techniques. Other treatments address the accompanying stress that both causes and is caused by tinnitus, such as cognitive behavioral therapy that aims to help us achieve a better state of acceptance. Yoga and meditation are increasingly popular tools to help us relax and avoid the depression, anxiety, insomnia, and feelings that we’re going to crazy that can happen when we realize the tinnitus isn’t going away anytime soon. Oh, wait, I almost forgot that ‘technique’ where you lace your hands behind your head and rhythmically snap your pointer fingers against your skull. The only result for was cramps in my hands and sore pointers.

Most of us with chronic tinnitus have tried many, most or all of these suggestions. We soak up advice on online tinnitus forums and we jump on every suggestion Someone may swear that taking Vitamin Whatever took away the ringing in their ears – and maybe it did, for that person. Whenever someone posts a success story, the writer is pummelled with questions: how much, when to take, for how long, etc. We are all looking for relief and hope is what keeps us going.

There is one heartbreaking and permanent form of relief is seldom discussed. Suicide. When we hear that someone just couldn’t take it anymore, it shocks and saddens us. But it’s rare and when we read someone write, “I can’t take this anymore”, the universe reaches out; hundreds of people offer words of encouragement and new ideas to let the person know we’re out here in the universe, people who understand and care. Let’s hang in there together for tinnitus research, being carried out around the world, to bring us results. Let’s wait together, as we continue to hear the whooshes, whistles, dingy-dongs and rolling thunder that we’d rather hear in their natural state and not in our heads.

I am taking my tinnitus day by day.

When I am engaged in conversation, watching something interesting on TV or Netflix, or absorbed in reading something brilliant, my head noise recedes from my consciousness. I exercise a lot more these days because it makes me feel good, which in helps me deal better with the tinnitus. I’m getting better at meditating and I’m also on a low dose of a medicine often prescribed for depression, which I don’t have, but it gives me another, temporary coping tool. I’m also dependent on my hearing aid and cochlear implant which help me hear and to override my tinnitus at times, especially when I use Bluetooth or telecoil to bring the TV or phone sound directly into my head. 

From experience, what I can say about tinnitus is that there are ways to deal with it If you are suffering from tinnitus, you need a good support system. Reach out for help and join me in waiting for things to get better. They usually do.

 

 

 

About Gael Hannan

Gael Hannan is a writer, speaker and advocate on hearing loss issues. In addition to her weekly blog for HearingHealthMatters.org, which has an international following, Gael wrote the acclaimed book "The Way I Hear It: A Life with Hearing Loss". She is regularly invited to present her uniquely humorous and insightful work to appreciative audiences around the world. Gael has received many awards for her work, which includes advocacy for a more inclusive society for people with hearing loss. She lives with her husband on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

2 Comments

  1. I too dealt with that evil monster tinnitus.
    When I wore hearing aids HA, I would hear this mild roaring sound like a jet engine. It was mostly at low volume but in a noisy restaurant the volume would increase to near maddening level. I had to escape to a quiet room to alleviate the noise in my head.
    Thankfully when I became bilaterally implanted with CI s I was completely relieved of that evil beast. I don’t remember whether it was from the first CI on my right side or after the first, second, or third CI implantation on the left side. Regardless, I am thankful to be relieved of that noise.

  2. Thank you for another great article. You always manage to put into words everything I feel. Makes me realise I am not alone. Don’t know why that helps, haha. I have terrible, 24/7 tinnitus in the ear without the CI (I am completely late deafened- yes, liked that article too)….

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