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The Misery of Tinnitus - Ring Any Bells? | Mother Distracted

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Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Misery of Tinnitus - Ring Any Bells?

I am currently constantly accompanied by a high pitched buzzing in both ears - tinnitus. I've managed to discover by frantic Googling (never advisable), that the frequency of this buzzing is 4000 hz, should you wish to share the pleasure of my auditory visitor.

Visual representation of Tinnitus
Tinnitus makes many lives a misery.  Source:  news.bbc.co.uk

Apparently, 20% of the population have tinnitus - but not all of them visit their GP. (Good luck with that in any case because my local practice has only just reluctantly retired its collection of leeches). A trawl through the many tinnitus forums throws up post after post by those who cannot fathom how they are going to cope with the mad cacophony of sounds - bells, whistles, whooshes and even the sound of jet engines which are so disruptive that sleep is a nightmare, concentration impossible and the thought of enjoying a day (let alone the sound of silence), about as likely as winning the lottery.

A common emotion seems to be self reproach and guilt where the sufferer has done something they believe has brought on tinnitus - for example shooting an air rifle without wearing ear defenders, or going to a rock concert without ear protection. I cringe every time we are passed on the walk to school by a car pounding with deafening music (and it's usually a hatchback) because I now know how easy it is to do irreparable damage to your hearing - let alone the dangers of constant iPod use. How often do we get a hot ear from using a mobile for a relatively short time? What is that doing to our hearing, I wonder.  

Many alternative therapies are cited. One statistic I read was that 40-50% of tinnitus sufferers who have acupuncture experience a reduction in their tinnitus. Then there are the supplements, alpha lipoic acid, vinpocetine, pycnogenol, zinc, gingko and on and on, all carrying claims of miracle cures. I am about to try vinpocetine having read several enthusiastic testimonies about its effectiveness and I may try acupuncture again as I am convinced it helped with the conception of our daughter.

Other tinnitus suspects in the frame are, variously, caffeine, alcohol, candida, aspirin, antibiotics and electromagnetic sensitivity (i.e. being affected by living close to a mobile phone mast or feeling ill when you use a microwave). It's amazing that, given how many people are reported to suffer from this annoying condition, more has not been done to come up with a cure.  

There is Tinnitus Retraining Therapy and also Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which aim to help us adapt our behaviour and focus on coping strategies. Currently there aren't really 'cures' as such, rather ways of learning to live with the noise in your head so that it eventually fades into the background and you cease to notice it at all.

Mine has started up since I had my two new hearing aids and probably as a result of my dreadful habit of wearing earplugs at night. I was never an avid clubber but I can remember leaving discos (remember them) and concerts in the 80's with my ears still ringing the next morning and I am guilty of having the car radio on loud and singing at full blast (on my own you'll be relieved to hear - or perhaps not). Then there were the days of the Sony Walkman and the inevitable playing of tapes (how very retro) too loud - again, not heavy rock but girly stuff such as Whitney and, to the husband's horror, Wham. If I think back, there were plenty of occasions when I did not protect my hearing.  But as for the initial trigger?  Who knows.

That's the frustration with subjective tinnitus - unless you've had surgery on your ears or are taking a medication which is known to exacerbate the problem, discovering your triggers is well nigh impossible. Hearing loss is often implicated, but then so are ageing and even wax build up. Then there's the mystery of tinnitus 'spikes' i.e. times when the noise gets louder for no apparent reason. Stress is said to be the main culprit because the more you focus on the sound, the louder it gets.

There is a modicum of hope though. Reading the self help boards, there are many who have lived with tinnitus for years and who have simply become so used to their sounds that they cease to notice them. I hope this latest buzzing is just a factor of adjusting to my hearing aids. I hadn't worn my hearing aid for so long (I just had one initially for the right ear), that it was a surprise to hear my own voice, and that of the kids, clearly again! The husband was happy that we spent a whole day in Cardiff without him having to shout, repeat himself or explain.  

I just hope it's not going to be a toss up between hearing clearly and putting up with constant buzzing.

Do you suffer from tinnitus?  What do you do to cope with it?  Please let me know!  
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