Dealing With Tinnitus
One thing I haven’t talked about here in a long time is tinnitus. I’ve always had tinnitus in varying degrees; it ramped up quite a bit when I lost all the hearing in my right ear in 1993, and then settled down again after a while. Usually it would go away when I put my hearing aids on. My brain seems to just go a little crazy when there’s no sound coming in, so it likes to make it up, I guess.
If I had tinnitus when I was wearing my hearing aids, then it usually signaled an impending illness or it was a side effect of stress. I’ve never had tinnitus as a result of something I ate or drank (caffeine, for example) or from medication. All the advice floating around on the internet regarding changing your diet to eliminate tinnitus was useless to me. If I was sick, or about to get sick, I got tinnitus and nothing stopped it except becoming healthy again. If I was stressed out, I could usually count on the tinnitus fading away once I introduced sound via my hearing aids. At night, or any other time I didn’t wear my hearing aids, I had tinnitus again. (Sometimes I could keep a fan running at night and the white noise would keep the tinnitus at bay, since I still had some natural hearing before 2008.)
If you’ve never had tinnitus (ringing or sounds in the ear) then it is really hard to describe. You definitely hear the sounds, but you can tell they aren’t coming from an external source. It always sounds different to me – sometimes it’s a low hum, sometimes chirps and beeps, and I’ve also had tinnitus that sounded musical. It roars, it clicks; some days it’s like Morse code, some days it’s like a train rushing through a tunnel.
Whenever I imagined being deaf, I always imagined dead silence. Hearing nothing. Just a big void, if you will. When I actually lost all of my hearing, I was horrified to have sound replaced by tinnitus. It was loud and constant. There was no way to make it go away, because there was no way for me to hear. I couldn’t introduce sound like I used to.
If I dwelled on it too long, it would’ve made me truly crazy. I mean, I had noise in my head all day and night long; the only time I got relief was when I was sleeping. For me, being deaf meant being locked into a prison of constant, hellish internal sound.
Since I knew there was nothing I could do about it, I tried to embrace it as much as I could. I took comfort in the fact that at least it gave me the semblance of hearing something. It wasn’t like someone just flipped a switch and my world suddenly went quiet. Knowing I was at the mercy of this noise, I just did my best not to fight it and, when I could, to find humor in some of the crazy sounds tumbling around in my head.
In those early days, it was just TINNITUS, in the middle of my head. I couldn’t have told you which ear it was coming from; it just was there, everywhere, not one side or the other. Now when I get tinnitus (very rarely), it’s easy to pinpoint which ear it’s coming from. I have it a little bit as I’m typing right now; my CI processors are off while my wet hair air-dries. I have a very low, constant hum in my left ear, and my right ear has a high pitched whine that sometimes turns into chirps and clicks.
The difference now is that I know once my hair is dry, I’ll put on my CIs and the tinnitus will melt away. I’ll hear the sounds of my environment and not the sounds in my head.
Getting cochlear implants completely took away my tinnitus. I had tinnitus after surgery (sometimes very VERY loud, like a roaring train) but once I was activated…poof, it was gone. The first time the house was quiet and I was wearing my CIs, sitting there in actual silence, I actually got teary-eyed from relief. It was so nice just to hear nothing at all.
Now I hear silence all the time. If it’s quiet and I have my CIs on, there’s no tinnitus. If I have my CIs off, I usually don’t have tinnitus. It might sneak in, very quietly, but not enough to bother me and definitely nothing like what I used to experience. If it does ramp up and get crazy, then I know I’m either stressed out or getting sick, just like before.
If you suffer from tinnitus, I know how miserable it is. Believe me. For me, the only cure has been sound…either through a hearing aid or cochlear implant.
Posted on July 24, 2013, in Cochlear Implants & Hearing Loss, Observations and tagged Cochlear Implants & Hearing Loss, deafness, going deaf, health, hearing aids, hearing loss, sounds in your head, tinnitus, what is tinnitus like. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.