The Misery of Tinnitus – Ring Any Bells?

Are you plagued by the misery of tinnitus?

I am currently constantly accompanied by a high pitched buzzing in both ears which varies depending on how tired I am, what I’ve eaten or drunk and whether I’ve been exposed to loud noise.

Photo by Carolina Heza on Unsplash

I’ve even 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.

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 because I now know how easy it is to do irreparable damage to your hearing – let alone the dangers of constant iPod use. What about those who take phone calls in their car so loud you can hear their conversation in the next town? Surely that must affect your ears.

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, ginkgo and on and on, all carrying claims of miracle cures.

Some swear by vinpocetine and I have read several enthusiastic testimonies about its effectiveness.  I may try acupuncture again as I am convinced it helped with the conception of our daughter so it must do something.

That’s the thing – every alternative treatment takes on the glow of the Holy Grail as you read that someone once completely cured their tinnitus by aromatherapy, homoeopathy, ear candling (please no!).  The list is endless – and unsubstantiated.  And, of course, nobody takes into account the power of the Placebo effect.

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).

Aspartame has also been implicated – the artificial sweetener in diet sodas and almost everything else which claims to be ‘sugar-free’.

Quinine in tonic water is also thought to be a factor and there are whole forum threads on the effect anti-depressants have on tinnitus.

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.

In truth, Tinnitus seemed to be viewed as some sort of psychological abnormality, rather than an irritating and potentially deeply depressing condition.

There is Tinnitus Retraining Therapy and also Cognitive Behavioural Therapy which aims 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 been with me for years and shows no sign of abating.  I have tried hearing aids to see if that retrains my brain to focus on the noises around me, rather than the sounds inside my head – but I have struggled to persist with these and, to be frank, notice very little difference when I am wearing them.

I will say though that, suffering as I do from mild hearing loss, 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.

It appears for me, at least, that where hearing aids are concerned it’s going to be a toss-up between hearing clearly and putting up with constant buzzing.

I am a very light sleeper and have got into the habit of wearing earplugs at night.  Whilst these do help me sleep, I find the level of my tinnitus is significantly increased for the first few hours of the morning.

In fact, some medics say that we should not wear earplugs for any length of time because, in the absence of noise, the brain ‘fills in the gap’ by creating its own sounds – those of tinnitus.

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 are 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 the sounds that they cease to notice them.  This is described as ‘habituation‘.  Interestingly, it is said that meditation and mindfulness may help you to live more harmoniously with your Tinnitus through being able to control your focus.

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

Find more on my battle with Tinnitus in the posts below:-

I’m Buzzing – My Tinnitus Is Back!

5 Things People With Tinnitus Want You To Know

If You Have Tinnitus, You Need To Make Friends With Spike

Let The Bells Ring Out For Christmas – Except If You Have Tinnitus

Are You Kept Awake At Night By The Hum?

Tinnitus Sufferers Long To Hear The Sound Of Silence

Tinnitus Sufferers Are You Struggling To Get A Diagnosis?

So Now I’m Choosing Restaurants By Noise Level

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14 Comments

  1. 18 June, 2020 / 10:13 pm

    Having Tinnitus is no fun at all, my dad has it and he thinks he got it as he used to play in a band in his younger days and does complain of the discomfort. I do hope you get a cure for this.

  2. 18 June, 2020 / 8:59 pm

    It sounds so painful. You must be very strong and patient in order to face this difficult situation.

  3. 18 June, 2020 / 12:42 pm

    That must’ve been an awful experience for you. I’ve never heard of this before but I think my niece had this when she was young.

  4. 18 June, 2020 / 11:57 am

    I don’t suffer from tinnitus but it sounds dreadful, I cannot imagine having a constant humming in my ears

  5. Rhian westbury
    18 June, 2020 / 11:15 am

    I don’t suffer from tinnitus, but I’m shocked I don’t as for about 6/7 years I went to live music shows at least 2 or 3 times a month and wouldn’t wear earplugs (even when I was at the front taking photos). I know I’m lucky so when I do go to shows again I will be wearing them x

    • linda
      Author
      18 June, 2020 / 11:29 am

      Try some musicians’ earplugs from Amazon. You can still hear but they reduce the risk dramatically. I wouldn’t wish tinnitus on anyone.

  6. 18 June, 2020 / 9:45 am

    I didnt realise so many people suffer from Tinnitus, it must be horrible and so dehibilating, i hiope you can find help etc in the future, great post.

  7. Rebecca Smith
    17 June, 2020 / 9:49 pm

    That must be so awful. I’ve never had it myself but I know people who have and it can be so debilitating.

  8. 17 June, 2020 / 3:31 pm

    I have not suffered with this but can only imagine how you are feeling, I hope you can find a cure soon x

  9. Sarah
    4 January, 2020 / 2:19 am

    I read and re read your blog posts with this constant companion in my ears – “the buzz” or “the whine”. Sometimes it’s so loud it seems too quiet, a weird muffled aura takes over my world and all I experience is this high pitched lull! With no cure for my sins, I am left with no choice but to blame an uneventful adolescence spent “listening” to the BeeGees!

    • linda
      Author
      4 January, 2020 / 1:55 pm

      Sarah have you seen a doctor or asked for a referral to an audiologist? Have you also checked that earwax isn’t the problem? It might explain the muffled sensation.

  10. Jules page
    7 February, 2018 / 6:40 am

    I have tinnitus in both ears too. High pitch buzzing constantly.
    I experience most of the things you do. It was be so nice to hear silence again although I know I never will. It is worse when I’m stressed or worried I think because I concentrate on the noise more.
    A friend of mine had it also but she had hearing aids which she said helped her.
    Sometimes for no reason the frequency will change for about 5 seconds and then reverts back to normal,
    I have all sympathy with sufferers and hope they can find a cure some day.

  11. 7 February, 2018 / 12:10 am

    My sister and I both suffer with Tinnitus – though from sound of it ( no pun intended!) my sister has it worse than me as she has to have the TV on as a distraction whereas mine comes and goes and isn’t too bad .I have used white noise on YouTube to drowned it out at times . I blame myself for headphones and blasting music out when I was younger.

  12. Dot Eastman
    19 June, 2014 / 3:44 pm

    I bet having tinnitus has been frustrating for you. There are a lot of therapies that could help cure it. I hope trying out acupuncture treatment as an alternative therapy will help you. Before you try taking the supplements, maybe you should consult with a doctor face-to-face first. This is just me, but it could be much more reassuring to have a second opinion than having done the research yourself. Anyway, good luck with your research. I hope you find a solution soon. Take care!

    Dot Eastman @ U.S. HealthWorks