My right ear is ringing worse than usual. I have just returned from the school run where a child screamed ‘boo’ in my ear. To those of you who don’t suffer from the nightmare of Tinnitus, I imagine you are now thinking “what a wet lettuce” and I used to agree with you, but when you have tinnitus (a condition that causes ringing or buzzing in the ear), a sudden loud noise like a shout or a bang can cause what we tinnitus sufferers refer to as a tinnitus spike.
|Many Tinnitus Sufferers Are Too Afraid To Go To Concerts
A spike is like the Russian Roulette of tinnitus. You have no idea how long the tinnitus spike will last and whether the frequency of the noise in your ear will abate. You see tinnitus sufferers get to know their ‘usual’ tinnitus frequency and level very well. We are so tuned into it that we are like walking tuning forks.
Probably the greatest fear for the tinnitus sufferer is that something, anything, will cause the noise to get worse – and never go down again.
A cursory glance at any tinnitus forum online will show that after desperately trying to find a cure for the condition, dealing with the fear of a tinnitus spike is next up as one of the biggest dilemmas we have to put up with.
You literally never know when the next tinnitus spike will come along. You can go for weeks with your ringing/buzzing/chirping at the level you know (and can more or less deal with) and then, bam, something causes your tinnitus to spike and you sink into a spiralling vortex of anxiety, worry, sleeplessness and, usually, self-blame.
I imagine loads of tinnitus sufferers spend hours berating themselves for what they see as poor choices and ‘if only’s’. If only I hadn’t gone to that concert, or to the cinema. If only I could have foreseen that a small child was going to sprint across the playground and shout in my ear.
And then there are the ‘shoulds’. I should have known that driving with the car window open would cause a spike. I should have known that giving the kids balloons when they’d only burst them would cause this maddening buzzing.
I have written before about how difficult it is for many to understand how soul-destroying tinnitus can be and how the medical profession really needs to pull up its socks and come up with solutions and strategies to help sufferers manage not only the condition but the life draining anxiety that comes with it. So many tinnitus sufferers are still struggling for a diagnosis.
Many of us no longer go to concerts even though we love music. Fellow sufferers have given up playing musical instruments or going to the cinema. We are all desperately trying to find an alternative medicine cure since there seems to be very little available for us. Lipoflavinoids? Check. Acupuncture? Possibly. Pine Bark? Vitamin B12? Magnesium?
If there is something we can do for ourselves it is, and this is entirely counter-intuitive, to relax and almost breathe into the sound. It is a vicious circle. We focus on the sound and, surprise surprise, it increases and stays with us far longer than it would if we could only accept its presence and let it go.
If we think back to our previous experience of spikes, we remember that they usually abate when we have forgotten about the incident that triggered them.
Relaxing when you have tinnitus is no small challenge but it can be done – either by practising meditation or buying a sound machine (which play white noise or relaxing sounds such as birdsong or the sound of the sea).
Being kind to yourself is important too. Eating well and trying to get enough sleep (again another major challenge for many sufferers) are important.
The goal is, I guess, not to be defined as a tinnitus sufferer but to get to the point where tinnitus is just something you happen to have and then the fear will be gone.
The next time someone shouts in your ear or blows a whistle or makes a sound which, for the majority, is perfectly normal and, dare I say it, fun, then we will be able to accept it and let it pass.
This is the stage we need to get to because, until we get there, many of life’s pleasures are suspended, unavailable, maddeningly out of reach.
No, much though I’m afraid to say it, we need to make friends with spike.
Further information about tinnitus can be found at the British Tinnitus Association and if you feel you are suffering from it, please go and see your GP who may refer you for a hearing test and other necessary medical check-ups. Ironic as it sounds, don’t suffer in silence!