How to Cope with Tinnitus, a Ringing of the Ears
Does Tinnitus get Quieter Over Time?
I've been living with tinnitus(ringing of the ears) for nearly 8 years of my life, and it always surprises me that people are totally oblivious of it when I reference it. It concerns me somewhat, because everyone is susceptible to this life-altering condition, and no one seems to take it seriously. I can tell you now that tinnitus has irreparably changed my life.
It all started a few years ago, I went to bed and everything was quiet, except for this sound that was seemingly coming from within my head. I remember walking around my room trying to locate where this consistent hum was emanating. My heart started racing because I couldn't get away from this pitch of sound, which I always describe to others, as maddening. The first few days I felt I was going insane, I couldn't focus on anything except for this phantom noise that was reverberating inside my skull.
I booked an emergency appointment with an Otolaryngologist, and what he concluded was, "You have tinnitus, you'll have to learn to live with it". I was abhorred with his bed-side manner, it was clear to me he's never had tinnitus and/or he's just a paycheck doctor. Below this article entails how I coped with tinnitus and how I refused to let it destroy my mind.
Were you aware, or have you ever heard of tinnitus?
What Exactly is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus isn't classified as a disease, it is a medical condition that causes neurological perception of a ringing where there is not actual external sound present. Although it is labeled as a "ringing", it is in fact only one among many sounds an individual might perceive. Other described sounds are a whistling, hissing, buzzing, or even a vibration-like noise.
The perceived noise varies in pitch, tone, and overall loudness. Tinnitus is generally worsened in a quiet environment. For me personally, I can never be within an enclosed space, without some ambient noise helping in taking the focus off the ringing inside my head. Additionally, sleep is next to impossible without a fan running in the background of my sleeping space, and I'm hardly alone.
It is estimated that 50-60 million people living in the United States are afflicted with tinnitus. Most tinnitus sufferers are fortunate if their tinnitus's severity is mild and therefore easily ignored. In gradually more severe and chronic cases, it moves from being a mere annoyance to a life altering frustration that can adversely affect one's quality of life.
Many chronic sufferers find it hard to concentrate during the day, and deal with attempting to sleep through the night. Theses difficulties lead to other hardships, such as increased stress, strains relationships at work, also with friends and family. Also, individuals that have tinnitus are very prone to physiological and psychological distress.
Often, tinnitus can be accompanied by "Hyperacusis", which is heightened sensitivity to sound. People with any degree of hearing loss will inevitably find the ravages of tinnitus more serious, because with lack of exterior noises to help mask the tinnitus, the perception of their ringing will feel even more prominent, and inescapable. There are people who are entirely deaf, but still suffer from the noise inside their heads.
What can Cause Tinnitus?
Prolonged and sustained exposure to high decibel sound is the most common cause of tinnitus. The noise pollution permanently damages the inner ear's sound cells of the cochlea. Any one working in a high decibel work environment are highly susceptible to developing tinnitus.
In fact, the number one service-disability for returning soldiers from Afghanistan and Iraq for three years straight is tinnitus. The veterans were constantly exposed to high level of noise daily, from jet engines, mechanical noise, gun fire, and explosions all contribute to hearing-loss related tinnitus. Many people never successfully pinpoint the cause for their tinnitus, here are other causes for tinnitus to arise:
- Past or current Injuries to the neck and head. An old neck injury can take years to manifest symptoms, such as ringing in the ears.
- A history of jaw problems, such as temporomandibular joint syndrome(TMJ).
- Having Meniere's disease, which affects the inner-ear, and may cause tinnitus.
- Blockages of the inner-ear caused by a buildup of wax
- Chronic or severe ear infection
- Side effects from certain drugs, most notably aspirin, antibiotics, and antidepressants.
- Quinine medication
How to Live with Tinnitus
Learning how to deal with tinnitus wasn't an option, either it was going to continue to completely flip my world upside, or I could find a balance to coexist with it. If you recently have been diagnosed with tinnitus, then believe me when i tell you, I know exactly how you are feeling. At my lowest, I wouldn't even get out of bed and became fixated on the sound. I can only hope to console you by telling you it does get easier.
Your brain eventually will habituate to it's frequency and there are times I forget that it's there. So, as it turned out the doctor that told me "you'll learn to live with it", wasn't too far off, although he could have used a more empathic tone. Because tinnitus is an underlying symptom of another condition, there's always hope to figure out what started your tinnitus, and how you can cure yourself.
There are many uplifting stories of people curing themselves through a lot of experimentation. There are many things that can exacerbate the ringing, such as, stress, caffeine, too much salt, further damage to inner-ear nerves, and there are nearly 200 prescription drugs that list tinnitus as a side effect, so keep an eye on your prescription. For me it was salty foods, the more salt I consumed the louder my tinnitus sounded.
If you're serious about possibly ridding yourself of tinnitus or at least mitigating it, then you should definitely keep an activity and food journal. I kept track of everything I did, how I did it, what I drank, ate, and in what quantities. For easing my mind into sleep, I always have a small fan running, and it helps mask the ringing in my ears, or you can take it a step further with a white noise sound machine.
Also, accept support from your friends and family. At first, I kept my condition from my loved ones, and in retrospect, that was a huge mistake. It's okay to lean on people who care about us when we need them. I know there's no way to convince you, but tinnitus becomes very manageable over time, just try to hang in there, you're not alone. Who knows, there is promising tinnitus research going on, we may have a cure one day.
William Shatner and Tinnitus
Is There a Cure for Tinnitus?
There have been great strides taken to better understand tinnitus through research funded by the U.S. government, but currently there isn't a cure for tinnitus. But researchers aren't giving up, and neither should anyone coping with tinnitus. There's very progressive research currently underway.
Be careful what some claim on the internet, there aren't any miracle cures for tinnitus, mainstream medicine or homeopathic, I've tried everything. Although every person's tinnitus is different and specific to that individual, so it doesn't hurt to try everything once. I genuinely have to believe that one day I can have silence again, you'll never realize how much you miss it, till it's gone. Here are ways to reduce your risk of developing tinnitus:
- Turn down the volume, it's not worth the risk of hearing loss and permanent ringing of your ears. And if you're not the owner of the volume knob, ask, your hearing is at stake.
- Bring earplugs to loud movies, I use to get weird looks when I forgot my earplugs and had to resort to using wads of napkin. Pride and vanity should not go before the health of your hearing.
- Avoid loud places, nightclubs with debilitating loud music is just a risk no one should take. I've never found the root cause for my tinnitus, perhaps if I avoided loud surroundings when I was younger, I'd probably wouldn't be writing at this moment.
- Mind your surroundings, don't be too macho to put your hands over your ears. If it's too loud for you, assume the position and cover up!
Thank you for reading through, it's a lengthy subject and I appreciate you hanging in there. I hope you'll be more careful with your hearing, once you lose it, you lose it for good. Also, keep in mind that hearing loss and tinnitus go hand in hand. Feel free to share this article with a friend or your social network.