Huh. Turns out silence actually IS golden.
March 10, 2007 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Tinnitus. It sucks.

In 1988 I had my eardrums hemmhorrage when I flew with a cold. My ears healed although I lost some low tones, & from that point on I've taken sudafed & worn earplanes to fly.

In April I went to Egypt & during my weeks there, I took 9 planes. Then I got to Turkey & the weather was MUCH different. I felt a little tickle in the back of my throat but I didn't think anything of it. On a bus from Istanbul to Ankara, I felt the pressure building up inside of my left ear as the bus climbed a (not even that big!) hill. I knew I was in trouble. I took sudafed. I couldn't find my earplanes. I tried to cope. At 11pm I arrived in Cappadocia Turkey -- ie, NOWHERE -- in extreme pain and booked myself into a hotel room. In the middle of the night I awoke to a LOUD pop inside of my ear. When I woke up, there was pink liquid all over my pillow. My eardrum had ruptured. I went to 4 non-english speaking doctors in various countries overseas before finally being approved to fly home. Meanwhile, I was deaf in my left ear for 12 days & it had hemmhorraged stuff for 10, and for that time all I could hear was a loud heartbeat and tinnitus in my ear. The doctor in Turkey told me that it would only last for 6 days, but unfortunately, the infection in my ear was a bad one. My understanding is that the medicine in Turkey wasn't strong enough & so it ended up being much worse than it needed to be.

Since coming home, the California Ear Institute diagnosed me with Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. My rupture has healed up nicely, they say. Looks good, they say. I had a tympanostomy tube inserted into my ear, and will probably have to have that replaced & one inserted into my right ear before I fly overseas next time. So all of that is well & good. But the tinnitis has never left. I haven't heard silence since May 6, 2006. I miss it.

They've taken cat scans of my sinuses. They've done allergy patch tests up and down my arms and told me I should get allergy shots every week for 3 years. The more tests they recommend and "specialists" they wanted me to see, the more I wanted to just run home and give up on doctors. I know they don't know what to do & they're just wasting my money.

At first it affected my singing voice (my voice echoes in my head a little now & it threw me off) but thank God I've been able to train myself to get over that. It's just I feel like I'm always run down, like I never really feel peaceful. For a while it was really affecting my personality & I got depressed, but I'm doing better now. At night when it's quiet... all I hear is this high pitched sound. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and I just can't sleep. I don't want to get hooked on sleeping pills or anything. I just want to feel rested. And I miss silence.

Since it's a problem other people can't hear, my friends don't know how to be supportive & I don't want their pity. (I actually ended my friendship someone who kept telling me that it was "just in my head.") I just try to keep it to myself and just ignore it. But wow, is it tiresome.

Anybody here have tinnitus? What have you done for it? Does acupuncture help? Should I get one of those background noise machines for my bedroom?
posted by miss lynnster to Health & Fitness (44 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I always, always, always have a fan or other white noise going in my bedroom. Air conditioner, dehumidifer, whatever. It makes an astounding difference. I would give something like that a try before anything else.
posted by Justinian at 9:32 AM on March 10, 2007

Best answer: White noise machines are awesome for this. I've had one running non-stop for years. As a bonus, you'll sleep like a baby and be less likely to have barking dogs and other noises wake you up in the middle of the night. Eventually, you can become habituated to the noise so that you don't really notice it, but in the meantime avoid silence.

There are, I believe, in-ear tinnitus maskers like hearing aids, but I don't know how effective or costly they are. You may want to look into that if the noise is unbearably loud during the day.

I've also heard of Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, but again I've never tried it and can't say how well it works.

You'll probably find that using white noise when you sleep is sufficient to get you through. Once you're well rested, some of the other crap will be less crappy for sure. And yeah, it sucks, but it's definitely a livable condition.
posted by stefanie at 9:42 AM on March 10, 2007

Echoing Justinian. I have mild Tinnitus. It only effects me in dead silence- usually reading or sleeping. Consequently, I have a fan on whenever doing either as most other activities produce sound. Otherwise, I hear a slight ringing and my heartbeat through my eardrum especially when sleeping. I cannot sleep without a fan on.
However, I'm also lucky enough that a fan on low is enough background noise to cancel out my noise issues.
posted by jmd82 at 9:43 AM on March 10, 2007

I think MOST people experience intermittent tinnitus, often without realizing that that's what it is. (I know I do. I know I had a conversation with one of my friends where she didn't realize that the weird ringing in her ears was actually tinnitus, or that tinnitus happens even if you haven't seriously hurt your ears.) So next time, don't say tinnitus, say "You know, that ringing in your ears that you get sometimes? It's like that, only louder and ALL of the time, it drives me batty." I bet you'll get a lot more sympathy, not necessarily pity but understanding.
posted by anaelith at 9:50 AM on March 10, 2007

Response by poster: I should probably get some kind of air purifier or humidifier I think. That would probably help my allergies & clear up my stuffed head a bit too. Any recommendations?

I know that various things cause tinnitis, mine was from the trauma I described but sometimes it's from stress or nerve issues I guess. Some people who've had it say it just went away on its own. Anyone have that happen? Or know of someone who found anything help to lessen it?

Unfortunately, the only other person I've ever known who had tinnitis took his life supposedly because of it in 2005. I would never let it get to me that much (I firmly believe he had other issues), but that he did didn't help my morale much at first. When I was still freshly deaf I received an e-mailed invitation to an anniversary memorial of his suicide & I couldn't help but think "Ok, that is SO not what I needed right now." Anyhow as I said I'm not the suicidal type, but he forced me recognize early on that this would be something I need to find a healthy way to cope with for my own sanity. So I appreciate all advice on how to progressively work on that. :)
posted by miss lynnster at 10:53 AM on March 10, 2007

Some drugs will cause this too. Check out crazymeds for stories about this.
posted by mecran01 at 11:04 AM on March 10, 2007

You can have intermittent tinnitus due to listening to loud music, that kind of thing. I want to stress that for most it's not nearly as bad what you're dealing with (it's called intermittent for a reason), but it's still considered tinnitus. It's something MOST people (afaik, ianad) experience at some point, the "ringing in the ears"... and for most people, who haven't had severe ear trauma, it's just something that happens for a few minutes and goes away. A lot of people don't even know what it's called, and it's possible to not even notice it happening (I've had moments when I notice my ears ringing and wonder how long they've been doing it, and then I'm distracted again and next time I think about it, it's stopped). For me, it's a mild ringing noise which lasts for about ten or fifteen minutes and happens about once or twice a month.

So, yes, for some (most) people it just goes away, but that's when it's from very mild ear damage (loud music). You probably know more people then you think who have mild/intermittent tinnitus, even if they're not going through the severity of what you're going through.

I keep harping on this because it sounds like you're categorizing yourself as someone "odd"--it's not odd, it's a more extreme, more serious version of something most people have. I think your life would be a lot easier if you told your friends about it and explained it as "like the difference between an occasional headache and constant migraines" and that you don't want it to rule your life but sometimes you might be a little irritable.
posted by anaelith at 11:17 AM on March 10, 2007

Get a noise machine. I bought one with a stereo headphone jack, plugged a pair of computer speakers into it, and set the speakers at the head of the bed so that it can play at lower volume and still be audible no matter how I rest.

Find a noise machine that makes a variety of sounds, because you'll find that some work better for you than others. For me, a babbling brook pattern worked better than white noise (or white noise-alikes, such as 'ocean waves') but your mileage will definitely vary. And after a long time of using it at gradually lower volumes I was able to sleep without it.
posted by ardgedee at 11:20 AM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Did you ask about surgery to remove or break up the scar tissue? Similar to the surgery they do for otosclerosis, which also comes with tinnitus. (IANAD and really don't know much, just what a friend went through.)
posted by beatrice at 11:34 AM on March 10, 2007

Response by poster: I kind of did say that stuff to them actually. When I get through to people what it is, most of the responses I get are "Oh my GOD I would go INSANE! Every night you hear that? How do you deal with it!? I don't think I could." and looks of pity and sympathy. I REALLY don't want to feel sorry for myself (I really just wish it would go away, that is ALL I want). When I think about it, I honestly don't know what my friends could do or say to be more supportive that would make me feel better. I really have no reason to expect more from them. I've kind of come to terms with it that tinnitis is apparently, from what I've been told, something nobody can do anything for & that I have to survive it on my own.

The "I don't know how you cope" comments definitely don't make me feel better though. Coping is the only option there is.

I'm looking at sound machines & air filters on Amazon...
posted by miss lynnster at 11:40 AM on March 10, 2007

Response by poster: Regarding scar tissue, apparently I don't have any. My ear has healed very well. The doctors don't know why I still have tinnitis. For that matter, they don't even know why on earth my ear would've ruptured during such a small altitude climb either.
posted by miss lynnster at 11:42 AM on March 10, 2007

I tried a sound machine and didn't like it much, actually. A nice fan works best for me and is useful in the summer.
posted by Justinian at 11:43 AM on March 10, 2007

When I was a kid, I had a family friend with tinnitus who attended a tinnitus support group. I don't know much about it, but I imagine it was helpful to her to be able to talk to other people with the same problem and get lots of suggestions from peers about different ways to cope and things that have helped. A cursory google search revealed a few support groups in your area. Might be a little more than you need, but I figured I'd mention it!

I'm sorry to hear about your ordeal. It sounds terrible. I'm very glad you're still able to sing! Good luck to you.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:03 PM on March 10, 2007

This doesn't answer your question but may help with getting your friends to understand... check out the movie It's All Gone, Pete Tong. It's a true story about a DJ who get's tinnitus and then eventually loses his hearing completely, and how he deals with it.

Before I watched it I didn't know or understand what tinnitus was. After seeing the movie, not only did I understand, but I realized that I actually probably have it to a certain extent. The movie was able to accurately portray the feeling and sound of what the ringing is like in your ears. It also shows the fear and difficulties involved with having this.

Maybe you could suggest to your friends who don't get it that they watch this movie. Certainly it will dispel any crap about it being "all in your head". Good Luck!
posted by RoseovSharon at 12:19 PM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd say that I'm echoing what other folks said, but . . . anyway, I have it. I only notice it at night. I used to always keep a fan going, but for some reason I've not had as much trouble with it in the last few years. I got mine from concerts, and I've become sort of a crusader for earplugs. Also, as just a random factoid, William Shatner has had a lot of trouble with it.
posted by Nabubrush at 12:27 PM on March 10, 2007

When I was fifteen, I went to sleep with a sharp pain in my left ear (my perennial response to otherwise intolerable pain) and woke up feeling tremendous relief, but with a deposit of fine pinkish sand dried on my pillow, in my ear canal, and covering most of my external ear-- and with some deafness in that ear, along with strange balance problems which manifest whenever I spend more than an hour or so jumping up and down (playing basketball).

I also have tinnitus, tend to hear my heartbeat, and hear my voice echoing in my head if I raise it for any reason.

It's struck me over the years that it is paradoxical that people don't hear their heartbeats and don't hear their own voices echoing in their heads-- certainly the sound energy which could give rise to these sensations is present at a high level. If it were purely a matter of sound waves impinging on the eardrum, none of us would experience silence, ever.

What I have concluded has happened to me, and you too, I think, is that a brain program which is designed to suppress sensation due to internally generated sound (in order to allow us to pay proper attention to the external world) is turned off in that ear in order to compensate partially for reduced ability in that ear to respond to sound in the first place.

It might be possible to turn that program back on, somehow, but even if you could, it might deaden all sound in that ear, and since you are a professional musician who must have to listen to music on headphones a lot in recording sessions and such, when your other ear cannot properly compensate, that cure could be much worse than the disease.

But since you are a professional musician, you might be able to try some thing a little more specific. As you may know, almost everyone in the US has a notch of deafness in their frequency response profile right around 60 Hertz, which seems to be due to the ubiquitous 60 Hz. hum caused by our 60 cycle electrical grid.

It may be worth trying to emulate this effect with the sound of your tinnitus. First, you would have to use some combination of tones from a frequency generator to try to externally duplicate the sound you hear from your tinnitus as closely as possible. Then, you could make a recording of that sound and play it to yourself continously in the background for as prolonged a period as practicable. Such a procedure could (I suppose I don't have to emphasize how speculative all this is) teach your brain to ignore your tinnitus the way it has already learned to ignore 60 cycle hum.
posted by jamjam at 1:11 PM on March 10, 2007

Glad to know I'm not the only one who needs background noise at night.

Miss Lynnster, don't waste your money on a white noise machine... a cheap fan works just as well. If you're worried about being cold, get a small one and place it on the other side of the room.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:17 PM on March 10, 2007

There isn't much in the way of treatment for tinnitus, but you will learn to live with it. A noise machine (or falling asleep to music) can help. There are also some CBT therapists who may be able to help, if you decide that's necessary.

But with time, you'll learn how to filter it some. Never completely, but some. (I've had increasing tinnitus for years - it's only in the last 3-4 that it's become more than just a mild annoyance.)
posted by spaceman_spiff at 1:21 PM on March 10, 2007

Response by poster: jamjam that's exactly what the Ear Institute wanted to do, they wanted me to be part of a tinnitus study where they replicate the sound. Problem is, I'd have to go in twice a week between 8am and 5pm and they are located a half hour south (with no traffic) from where I'm currently freelancing full time. So I told them I didn't think I could swing it.

I don't know of any other places doing that kind of testing in the Bay area, but I'd think there must be someone, right?
posted by miss lynnster at 1:29 PM on March 10, 2007

Response by poster: And thank you all for your responses, by the way. They really are good. :)

When my ear first ruptured I remember thinking how odd it feels to have the only sounds you hear be the inner workings of your body amplified. It's a strange sensation. But then when I thought about it, I realized it really is amazing that we don't hear all of that stuff normally. I never thought about any of it before, but realized I never appreciated what an incredible thing silence really is. It also made me realize that everyone's perception of silence is probably totally different since we all hear some noises at all times.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:36 PM on March 10, 2007

Response by poster: I said realize a lot in that paragraph.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:36 PM on March 10, 2007

Yes silence _is_ golden.

I always remember my grandma: "are you now going to suffer this for the rest of your life?" with a very sad face expression. 10 years ago that sounded strange - but, hell - it's a decade now, with two beeping ears.

What I did: hospital/meds to improve blood flow through the inner ear... pressure chamber... bedroom radio... meds again... acupuncture... but it wasn't until I got out of that sickness-circle and relaxed that I learned to live with it. So, my recommendation: chill.

I think your doctors, too, should be able to estimate if your tinnitus needs immediate treatment or not (being caused by an infection, for ex). Mine first did (it was a lot worse at first), but after a while leveled itself and the docs couldn't help anymore.

I every now and then think about going back to the doctors to check if they invented something new, since the beeping/dead frequencies gets worse when I'm stressed, by a cold or else. But since my way to live with it is to relax and accept is as part of me, I haven't, so far. I just don't see it as a personal catastrophe anymore and say "Hi!" if it beeps too loud and check what good I can do for myself.

(Oh and in all the time I haven't been on one plane or to one party or concert without earplugs.)
posted by hei_zung at 1:39 PM on March 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Eh, while it may be a good movie, "It's All Gone Pete Tong" is pure fiction. And the character had a life long ear defect, not tinnitus, which lead to his deafness.
posted by gsh at 1:43 PM on March 10, 2007

Response by poster: Good advice hei. I quit going to doctors & chilled for about 6 months, it was a good thing... I just concentrated on retraining myself to sing & that was a big breakthrough. But every once in a while I wonder if there's something else I can do to minimize it because I have just been feeling so run down & waking up in the middle of the night lately. I get frustrated.

I also have a back injury that's fortunately in remission now, and I used to wake up and say "Ok, I wonder what mood my back is in today." Now I find myself asking that about my ear... it's like having a roommate in my body that doesn't shut up. :)
posted by miss lynnster at 1:52 PM on March 10, 2007

Eh, while it may be a good movie, "It's All Gone Pete Tong" is pure fiction. And the character had a life long ear defect, not tinnitus, which lead to his deafness.

Guess I fell for it. Thought it was based on a true story but apparently not. However, the whole point of the movie was that he lost his hearing (via tinnitus) due to over-exposure to loud music over the course of his career as a DJ. I know it was about tinnitus because I'd never even heard the word before or knew what it was until I saw this movie.

There's a scene where they show the main character and people are talking to him but all he hears is the ringing in his ear... he's sticking his fingers in his ear trying to shake things around, trying to get the ringing to stop so he can hear what people are saying. It was with some degree of horror that I recognized that exact sound.
posted by RoseovSharon at 2:02 PM on March 10, 2007

I also have a fan going at night. My tinnitus started up several years ago, and you do habituate, depending on how loud it is. Mine isn't so bad.

Having white noise is definitely something that will help you sleep. I prefer the fan to the noise machines, but a steady rainfall noise always does the job too (thank goodness I live in Vancouver).

Good luck! You do get used to it, it drove me bananas at first as well.
posted by Salmonberry at 2:08 PM on March 10, 2007

I've found the best way to reduce my tinnitus is by being well rested, as it seems to aggravate whenever I am tired. I've also found smoking marijuana to have a negative effect, with my ears usually ringing even more.
posted by furtive at 2:21 PM on March 10, 2007

Best answer: UCSF Audiology Clinic has a few suggestions for how to manage tinnitus, including a copy of the cover letter they send to new/potential patients.

I worked with Robert Sweetow for several years in a non-medical capacity, but he talked extensively about his work and he certainly knows just about everything going on in the world of tinnitus research studies.

One suggestion there that you may not have received from just your doctor is to find a good audiologist not just a good doctor too.
posted by smallerdemon at 3:05 PM on March 10, 2007

Response by poster: The Ear Institute sent me to an audiologist actually. The weird part is that even though I know for a fact that I lost some low tones over the years, I always test pretty well. I think I'm just so hyperaware when I'm being tested that it makes a difference. In the real world, I'm not sitting around in anxious anticipation of every tiny beep. I can have a friend talking to my back for five minutes without me even having a clue. Oh, and if I'm in a noisy bar without my glasses on (so I can lip read as I listen), forget about it.

I know that being well rested would help... I just haven't been able to become that lately. I'm going to try the whole fan idea... I'll letcha know.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:04 PM on March 10, 2007

I have it, 24/7/365 and have seemingly forever.

Caffeine, aspirin, ibuprofen, fatigue exacerbate it for me.

My late first wife had it too... origin in her case was antibiotic Keflex, given in large doses by an idiot MD in Lubbock, Texas (ok, so I am being redundant here) who gave it to her because she had mono (a viral disease which does not respond to antibiotics). Did I mention IDIOT! Lots of antibiotics are ototoxic. Sometimes, not only do you get whistles and noises, you get vertigo. Consider yourself lucky.

At various points, she was told to take niacin (a vitamin which is a vasodilator), Hydergene (prescription med for vasodilation used for treating senile dementia), and to avoid caffeine and aspirin. She got the most relief from neck 'adjustments' from a chiropractor, believe it or not, who cracked her neck joints around. The first time, it reduced her problem significantly, then she continued to have monthly adjustments, pretty much for the rest of her life (about 18 years longer).

For obvious reasons, all of this is recollection.

In my case, I just don't pay attention. The voices in my head are louder than the noises!

Good luck. It'll either moderate, you'll discover things that impact it, or you'll get used to it. Focus on other stuff helps.

Good luck.
posted by FauxScot at 4:20 PM on March 10, 2007

I've had tinnitus most of my life - it worsened as my hearing deteriorated and was at unmanagable levels for a long time (I have since received a cochlear implant and whilst I still get tinnitus, the fact that I can hear now means that I'm concentrating on what I'm hearing from the outside world rather than what's going on in my head - the tinnitus is still a useful stress/exhaustion indicator, though!).

A few years ago, when the tinnitus was at its worst, my audiologist suggested Cognitie Retraining Therapy and I remember reading up on it and I found that simply reading about it helped. From what I recall, it was a matter or reframing your thoughts around what the tinnitus means, seeing it as just a sound and not something that's harmful or damaging. Also, doing things like relaxation and breathing exercises or meditation were good because I stopped focusing directly on the sounds (unfortunately, I no longer have the link my audie sent me, otherwise I'd post it here!). I'm no longer bothered by the tinnitus, even when it's quite loud, because I've 'reframed' it as benign.

All the best in sorting this out.
posted by prettypretty at 4:39 PM on March 10, 2007

I have similar issues with being bothered constantly by the noise in my head. It used to really bug me and I recognize your longing for silence. It helped me to finally realize that perfect silence is an ideal and never truly experienced, unless you are completely deaf.

Also: it is the resistance to the ringing which bothers you, not the ringing itself.

You will get used to it, I believe. I am sure your suicidal friend had other things going on, as you stated previously.
posted by macinchik at 5:25 PM on March 10, 2007

I am like FauxScot. I have it, all the time, and it simply doesn't bother me. It is always in the background, sometimes noticeable, often not fswhen I am busy doing other stuff, but even when I notice it I pay no attention to it.

I have no suggestions or recommendations beyond those that have been made here. I recognize that my response is different from many who experience the same thing. I wonder what the percentage of the population is that has it to some degree.
posted by megatherium at 7:24 PM on March 10, 2007

Acupuncture uses tinnitus as a diagnostic tool a lot but I am told it is "difficult to treat".
posted by pointilist at 10:33 PM on March 10, 2007

Acupuncture in my case was used to increase blood flow/oxygen supply to the inner ear, for healing purposes. But No, it didn't help anymore. It did help with relaxing though.

Miss L, I am feeling for you when it's even waking you up. But please try to (yeah I know how hard it is!) to make friends and not be something to drive you out of your own body or insane. There'll be better times.

Btw, I even heard of acoustic nerves being cut (amputated!) to switch of the beep. There is this danger of phantom pain (i.e. beeping) though. And thats nothing where I wanna be.

I go out, run, now. To level my bloodpressure & destress! :-)
posted by hei_zung at 1:05 AM on March 11, 2007

(oh in Europe its 10 AM, not 1)
posted by hei_zung at 1:07 AM on March 11, 2007

If you have a computer in your room, you can try playing white noise on, or you can download this Mac app.
posted by stefanie at 3:41 AM on March 11, 2007

jamjam, I'm really curious about what you said about deafness around 60 Hz, but I don't want to derail the thread. Could you email me? My email is in my profile. Thanks.
posted by louigi at 3:47 AM on March 11, 2007

I've had tinnitus for as long as I can remember, even as a kid. It's not severe, but it's there enough that I can notice it at all hours of the day, and I can't sleep in a completely quiet room.

I think because I've had it since such a young age I've not really let it bother me all that much (except when there's total silence, at which point it induces a great deal of stress for me).

I don't know if there's any legitimacy to it, but there's several herbal/natural Tinnitus treatment pills out there that can be found by googling tinnitus treatment. Probably can't hurt to give one a shot.

You'll find a lot of good information about tinnitus at the American Tinnitus Association website, including treatment ideas and more.
posted by twiggy at 4:38 AM on March 11, 2007

Response by poster: Well, I actually ordered both a sound machine & a hepa filter for my allergies too. Should get them within a week or so. Hopefully that'll help me get some better rest. Thank you all so much for the suggestions & good words. :)
posted by miss lynnster at 6:35 AM on March 11, 2007

Best answer: Seriously consider the allergy remedies. I had tinnitus to such an extent that I felt I was losing my hearing, and I couldn't sleep at night for all the noise. When we found out I had developed a dust and mold allergy, my doctor started treating me with generic flonase and OTC Claritin. And now, unless I get a faceful of dust? No tinnitus at all. It's a cheap, easy remedy; it can't hurt to try.
posted by headspace at 7:19 AM on March 11, 2007

I have had some god results with a supplement called Vinpocetine. 10 mg 3x/day. I get it at my local health food store and it costs me about $20/month. It doesn't completely illiminate the tinnitis, but it really does help.
posted by ljshapiro at 12:02 PM on March 11, 2007

Response by poster: By the way... thought I'd just update. I got a sound machine and it actually seems to be helping me sleep in a bit so far. Time will tell, but so far so good. :)
posted by miss lynnster at 11:19 PM on March 20, 2007

I just found this thread from the other ear thread. My tinnitus just got so bad that I went to the doc with it a month or two ago. I travel a lot for work and I think that one marathon set of trips in an airplane with no hearing protection did me in. Hrd to say. I'm living with it okay.

I read up on tinnitus a lot beforehand and so I was prepared when my not-great doc put me on a lot of allergy medicine but basically said "there's nothing you can do, you'll have to live with it." There were a few things that I read that really helped me and maybe they will help you.

1. it's hard to tell what causes it, often, and easy to obsess over why you have it. Don't. It's not helpful and it won't help you solve the problem. If you can find things that make it better, by all means do that, but don't beat yourself up for having ringing ears. That said, look into TMJ, chiropratic options, allergies and other things that people have said that helps. Most of this stuff can't in any way hurt and doing something about it usually feels good.
2. As a topic, feel free to talk about it with friends and people like here but don't obsess over it. The best thing you can do for your tinnitus and your mental health is to not really talk about it, especially not the "oh man I'd KILL myself if that happened to me" conversations. I refuse to talk about it with anyone except to say that it's better, worse, the same, etc. It's easy to obsess and other people either get it [like the people here] or they don't. I view the problem as chronic and so I prefer not to get sympathy about it.
3. I have an easier time dealing with my tinnitus if I view it as an anxiety problem. The ringing is real, sure, but I mostly notice it when I'm tense, somewhere quiet, or when I'm in a bad mood. Once you start realizing when you hear it and when you don't, you can try to maximize the way you live to try to have more of the good times and less of the bad. I was also panicky when I first started hearing noises all the time that it was going to get worse and eventually drown out all the other sounds around me. It hasn't, and my panic has subsided
4. Bedtime. I sleep with the fan on. I take benadryl most nights, it makes me a little sleepy AND it keeps me asleep because I'll frequently wake up in the night and I feel my ears are yelling at me. Staying sleepy is key. I also often take a bath or smoething before bed to calm me down. No late tv, no late internet (if I can help it). I don't drink much before bed because while I fall asleep easily, I don't stay asleep. My doc prescribed lorazepam for me because I was anxious and not sleeping but I haven't tried it yet. you might want to look into it, it makes bedtime not such a fight, I have heard.

So... it's a definite pain in the ass. I moderate my caffeine and try to stay away from aspirin and ibuprofen. I have all sort of sleep techniques and sometimes I just say fuck it and have a beer. I don't talk about it much to other people, but I'll chime in if it's the topic of converstion. It sounds like you have a bunch of ear problems that are sort of all affecting each other, so you may want to tease them apart and approach them one at a time (your tinnitus, the flying thing, the tube in your ear) to arrive at a complete "what am I going to do about this" strategy. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 11:34 PM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

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