Tinnitus is my constant companion, it is with me wherever I go. It never leaves me and is available 24-7/365. I hear it when I'm trying to sleep, I hear it when I awake and sometimes it wakes me up at night. I cannot get away from it. I can't turn it down and I can't ignore it. This is living with tinnitus.
Millions of people live with this malady. It is that constant ringing in the ears that never lets up. When I was first diagnosed I went to my doctor's office and saw a nurse practitioner. She basically told me I was out of luck. She said there is no real treatment. I did not really appreciate her immediate dismissal of this problem. She offered no solutions, no suggestions, nothing. I felt dejected and somewhat depressed at her reaction.
I kept thinking there must be something that could be done. I made an appointment with an ENT doctor (eyes, ears, nose and throat). He worked me in immediately. He explained the anatomy of the ear and its relationships with the nerves and brain. He explained the why of my tinnitus and referred me to an audiologist.
At the audiologist's office my hearing was tested and I learned that during my time in the Navy I had suffered some hearing loss. He also explained to me about masking hearing aids. These hearing aids produce background white noise as well as amplifying hearing. The white noise trains your brain to ignore the tinnitus. He gave me hearing aids to try and I was very impressed with them. They did offer at least some form of partial relief.
Types of Sounds
Low droning-Low roaring. This sound sometimes occurs when there are no other sounds to hear. This is actually the sound of the blood rushing through the vessels in the inner ear.
High-pitched frequency: This sound is the most common. It can be a constant high pitch and is probably the most annoying of all.
High-pitched Chirping: Some people describe these as similar to the crickets you hear at night. Others describe this as more like the song of the Cicada.
There are other variations but most will fit one of these descriptions.
Possible causes do vary from person to person and anyone can get tinnitus. People who work in a high-noise environment (aircraft noise, construction and heavy artillery fire to name a few) need to use hearing protection to help prevent this. Some blood vessel disorders can contribute to tinnitus and sometimes post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can play a role. Also review all medications as some medications have tinnitus (ringing in the ears) as a side effect. A less common cause is Miniere's disease. Stress, depression, head or neck injuries can also sometimes play a role. Lastly a benign brain tumor or the cranial nerve called acoustic neuroma can be at fault.
Living With It
One thing I have discovered is that I never have a quiet day. There is at any time as many as 10-12 different tones ringing in my head. The only way I have been able to find any relief at all is distract my brain from the ringing; that is use the masking hearing aids, keep the music on or watch television. Any other noise can be enough to distract me from the ringing. This especially includes road noise when riding in a car. This can be quite relaxing as the road noise masks the tinnitus somewhat.
To get to sleep you can try some quiet relaxing instrumental music made to help you relax. Thunderstorm and wave sounds are also quite helpful. For daytime use you can use almost any instrumental music as a distraction such as classical or smooth jazz.
I have found B-12 shots are very helpful in actually reducing the noise in your head. I have not had as much success with B-12 pills. There is also a product I get at the health food store called "Clear Tinnitus." I take this in the morning when I get up and at bedtime. This does help reduce the noise for me but some have actually experienced some relief using it.
I have found that if tinnitus wakes me at night then I am unable to get back to sleep. This can really wear you down. A good night's sleep is very important and can sometimes give you some relief but this is a kind of Catch-22 because the ringing can wake you up or keep you awake. Sometimes I use Tylenol PM to help me stay asleep. You may also try Melatonin and Z-Quil as over-the-counter sleep aids.
Some other activities that can afford some relief are visiting areas where there is a stream, waterfall or trip to the beach. These can mask the noise also. Classical music not only helps you ignore the noise but is also quite relaxing.
Another aspect of the tinnitus is the depression it causes. The constant ringing, lack of sleep and tinnitus-headache all contribute to depression. Depression is an issue I was warned about at the outset of the condition. This condition also causes sufferers to become suicidal. The best advice I can offer is TELL SOMEONE if you feel suicidal. Your brain can be trained to ignore the tinnitus.
Tinnitus should not be allowed to rule your life, bring you down or cause you to be depressed or suicidal. There are resources to find help if you can no longer stand the noise. Get the help you need, don't put it off and do it sooner rather than later.
All of this advice is from my own personal experience and may or may not actually work for you. This article is not intended as medical advice and is not a substitute for medical advice. I am not a doctor or medical practitioner. If you suffer from tinnitus and wish treatment you should consult with an ENT specialist and/or an audiologist.