My Tinnitus Story

When I went to the Doctor with a noise in my head I didn’t know what to expect. Loud ringing in ears is not pleasant and I had put up with it for a couple of days before being urged by family to get it looked at. Apparently I was driving them mad giving out about it.

I was insulted  my Doctor when telling me I had a mild case 😮 of tinnitus, which was like telling me my arm was only slightly broken. If what I had is ‘mild’ then god bless those who have it bad!  Any I really mean that.  Mild is not how I described the noise in my head, my loud ringing in ears was incredibly distracting.

For me I had loud ringing in ears all the time when awake, but I’ve since learnt that there are several different forms such as loud ringing in ears at night, or during sleep.

Despite my original annoyance with my Doctor, I will give him full credit for being very honest and positive about the condition.  My condition, while annoying and somewhat distracting is far less severe than many many others who suffer.  I’d assumed the loud ringing in ears would be sorted with a couple of pills or flushing the ears (I’d originally thought it was a wax build up) but its was not the case.

However, the Doctor told me there was no definitive cause (nothing obvious anyway) and because of this, no definitive cure !!!  However, he was very encouraging and told me that although there are no definitive treatments, there are a multitude of treatments that are available, and there is usually something for everyone. So the hunt began......

What Are Causes of Tinnitus (Some of)

Unless you suffer from tinnitus you probably haven’t paid much attention to it.  I know I didn’t. But when you have it, it can take over your world and indeed severe cases are practically impossible to live with and lead a normal life.

After being told by my Doctor that there was no definite reason for this loud ringing in my ears, I didn't quite believe that it couldn't be associated with something.  However, unless I got a knock that I didn't realise, I was pretty much able to dismiss many of the more usual causes.

Our body’s system is designed to interact all the time, and many things can go wrong causing tinnitus. Tinnitus, or loud ringing in ears may be a symptom of something else that needs to be investigated, or a result of previous damage to the body.

Some common causes of tinnitus (loud ringing in ears) are as follows (there are loads more)….

  • cerumen build-up (aka earwax)
  • sudden loud noises (e.g. rock concerts have left some fans with loud ringing in ears for days)
  • Damage to the inner or outer ear
  • neurological disorders
  • migraine
  • head trauma
  • ear infections
  • antibiotic side effects
  • loud noise exposure over extended periods of time
  • shock
  • chemotherapy
  • vitamin deficiency
  • iron deficiency
  • anxiety and or depression
  • fibro-myalgia
  • ageing (according to some sources!)
  • sleep deprivation

A loud ringing in ears can be linked sometimes to hearing loss, which is extremely frightening.  This is because many of the same issues that cause general hearing loss are also suspected of causing tinnitus. You obviously have to get this checked out by a Doctor if you think this is remotely possible!

Something to be aware of is that many of the causes of tinnitus are indirect – for example a vitamin deficiency may cause tinnitus in one person but not another, making it exceptionally difficult for a successful diagnosis. Worse, tinnitus because of the very nature of the disorder, the ringing or the buzzing or the hissing that you hear may be perceived noise and not real noise.

The Difficulty of Assessment

There can be great difficulty in getting a proper assessment of tinnitus.  Its hard to determine just how loud ringing in ears, buzzing in head, etc really is, as much of the noise is perceived. For example, although it would seem to be a logical choice, psychoacoustic testing (the one with sound) does not always have the positive results as you would expect as they do not correlate well with levels of distress that patients report (i.e. there can be confusion between real tones and perceived noises).

Many clinicians instead use psychometric questionnaires to determine the severity of the condition.

Other testing, some of which may not be obvious, such as food allergy testing, stress tests, REM sleep testing (ie polysomnography) can all be used to identify and alleviate some of the loud ringing in ears that can occur.

Treatment for Tinnitus and Loud Ringing in Ears

The treatment of tinnitus is really a good news/bad news situation and there is no point in pretending otherwise.  Because of the multiple possible reasons for developing the annoying loud ringing in ears there is no definitive cure for tinnitus.

The bad news – there is no definitive cure ! 🙁

The good news - there is often a cure that will suit you as an individual 🙂

There are studies that show upto 10% of the population may have tinnitus at any one time, and for the majority of these cases the condition is very mild and needs no treatment. Many of these cases will fade as quickly as they began. (Mine has actually disappeared as of early 2019, so far). However the remainder of the cases range from mildly irritating to debilitating and these require treatment. If you have a loud ringing in ears then firstly get checked out by the Doctor who will diagnose the cause of the noises. If tinnitus is the diagnoses, then there are several options available.

Remember tinnitus is one of those conditions that Doctors recommend you find an effective solution for yourself, so don’t be afraid to explore your options.

Suggestions for Dealing with Tinnitus

It can be confusing when first confronted with tinnitus.  The truth is that everyone seems to know someone who has it (upto 10% of population is estimate) but many of these do not need treatment (very mild), and everyone else seems to be doing different things to cope.

Actually, this is the key to your success. If you have annoying tinnitus ringing, at least you can take comfort that there is usually something that will work for you.  You just need to do the legwork to find out what it is.

My approach is as follows:

  1. Assessment
  2. Knowledge
  3. Lifestyle
  4. Tackle the symptoms
  5. Repeat !

1. Assessment

I hope this isn't too obvious, but the first step is to find out what is wrong with you.  There are links between different illnesses and tinnitus and migraines and headaches etc. If you have any doubts at all, visit your medical centre / doctor and get a proper assessment. They will likely ask a series of questions about your symptoms to help them diagnosis, such as:

  • Is the sound you’re hearing in both ears?
  • Is the sound constantly there or does it come and go?
  • Have you noticed a loss in hearing as well?
  • Does the volume get louder and quieter?

If the diagnosis is tinnitus, its good to know which form you may have.

  • Pulsatile tinnitus

Some people will hear tinnitus noises that beat in time with their pulse. This is usually linked to issues in the blood flow around the head area.

  • Subjective tinnitus

The most common type of tinnitus the sounds are heard inside the ear by the sufferer only. Unfortunately there are many potential causes by problems in your ears / nerves /  communication with brain / other causes etc.  This is why there is no one method of relief that works for everyone and you need to get your own method. If you want to find out more, heres a good summary.

  • Objective tinnitus

There is a form of tinnitus where people in close proximity to you can also hear their tinnitus sounds. This is usually caused by something that produces sound, like a narrowing of blood vessels in the ear or muscle contractions. Its often indicates usually a medical condition. If you want to find out me, heres a good summary.

2. Knowledge

Knowledge is key in assessing what you need to do to get relief from the condition.  There are many options, some more formal than other.

  • Ask your Doctor for advice, they've seen it all before.  Be aware though that many drug related options are not particularly successful.
  • Check the internet (you may have come across this site doing this 😀 ).  There is some good information out there.  You have to be careful that the advice is unbiased and knowledgeable.
  • Amazon.   Yes, I use amazon to get a couple of books on techniques to cope.  Very good value.  There is a link here if you want to check out top rated books.

3. Lifestyle

If you have an idea of what is the cause (or causes) of your condition, it is definitely worthwhile to make changes to your lifestyle to minimise tinnitus symptoms.  Not all are treatable by live style changes. but those who are, give it a go.

Some common, potentially treatable causes that may be affected by changing your lifestyle.

  • Exposure to loud noise (Work related). Loud noises, such as those from heavy equipment, chain saws and firearms, are common sources of noise-related conditions.
  • Using headphone with portable music devices. Items such as MP3 players or iPods, also can cause tinnitus if played loudly for long periods.
  • Earwax blockage. Earwax protects your ear canal. When too much earwax accumulates, it becomes too hard to wash away naturally, causing hearing loss or irritation of the eardrum, which can lead to tinnitus.
  • TMJ disorders. Problems with the temporomandibular joint, the joint on each side of your head in front of your ears, where your lower jawbone meets your skull, can cause tinnitus.  I like www.howtostopgrinding.com for hints and tips.
  • Head injuries or neck injuries. Head or neck trauma can affect the inner ear, such injuries generally cause tinnitus in only one ear.
  • Muscle spasms in the inner ear. Muscles in the inner ear can tense up (spasm), which can result in tinnitus, hearing loss and a feeling of fullness in the ear. This sometimes happens for no explainable reason, can be a symptom of other conditions, but also can be caused by general tension.

4. Tackle the symptoms

Even where you need to make a more in-depth analysis of your condition required, there are a couple of tips that may help:

  • Avoid possible irritants. Reduce your exposure to things that may make your tinnitus worse, such as loud noises, sudden noises, caffeine and nicotine etc.
  • Cover up the noise. In a quiet setting, a fan, low volume music or low-volume radio static may help mask the noise from tinnitus. Heres a list of top rated white noise machines on Amazon.
  • Manage stress. Stress can make tinnitus worse. Stress management may provide some relief.
  • Reduce alcohol consumption. Alcohol dilates your blood vessels, causing greater blood flow, especially in the inner ear area.

More general, but equally as important factors you can change to help with tinnitus

You know when you go to the Doctor and they tell you to lose weight / exercise more / control drinking / smoking  / stress etc. Well, they're right. General good health will make you feel better, will give you a more positive attitude and will aid in the battle against tinnitus.

  • Weight Control. Listen, I'm not a doctor, but I've benefited from losing over 30lbs as part of my changes in lifestyle.  Is it responsible for the reduction in tinnitus? I'm not sure, but I feel better, have more energy, and most importantly sleep better.  This has the benefit of me being less tired and irritable, and allows me to be more tolerant to the tinnitus noises.
  • Exercise. Its not the amount you do, its the effort you put in.  That was the advice given to me and I believe it.  Something every day is best, nothing too strenuous but enough to make you exert yourself.  If in doubt at all, check with your medical practitioner. I'm at the stage where I miss it if I can't do it.
  • Stress. Never paid much attention to this aspect, but I've started doing yoga (as exercise) which helps with stress relief as well as mindfulness.  Though it was a load of hokem originally, but I've been converted.   Try it, nothing to lose.
  • Alcohol / Smoking. I've reduced my drinking and I don't smoke.  Not sure if its individually responsible for improvement of tinnitus, but its been known to help greratly in some cases, and I'm not taking the risk 😀 .

5. Repeat !

When you start getting results do not be complacent.

If its working for you, keep it up.  Its easy when things get better to then ease up and backslide.

This is the opposite as to what you need to do.  Double down instead, focus on the things that you feel are helping you, but don't fail to explore other things that may make it better over the longer term.

Remember at the moment, there is no definitive cure for tinnitus, so you must develop and maintain your own regime to maximise your benefits.

My current regime includes:

Exercise and meditation:  My general health has improved.  My sleep patterns have improved and my tinnitus seems to have reduced.  At the very least I'm far less tetchy and more able to cope.  I particularly like yoga (specifically DDP yoga) 

Tinnitus Control:  OK, this is an homeopathic ear drop that I think is helping with my condition.  You can check it out on their website here, or its available in other places online such as Amazon.  Seems that it works really well, or not at all, based on the reviews I've read. Are you one of the people that it will help?

Review and Repeat:  I regularly check my tinnitus (first week of month), how I feel, and whether I believe there is an improvement, a deterioration, or staying the same.  If I'm feeling better, I try to continue regime. If worse, I'll seek alternatives. When maintaining I base my actions on overall health and well being.

This approach suits my character, I am systems based in approach.  Figure out what you can do, do it, and reap the rewards.