Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tintabulations of the Ear

I suffer from tinnitus, or more commonly known as ringing in the ear. This doesn't quite discribe the experience. I'd call it, smoke detector alarm in the ear. Ever try to sleep with one of those things going off? Read? Write? Exactly.
Managing it has been a challege. Particularly because I didn't do many of the things that can land you with tinnitus in the first place. I never hear music loud, I rarely ever go to concerts, and I've rarely fired weapons.
One time I went to a club, the music was too loud but I thought it's just once I'll be fine. But when I came out of the club I was shocked that I couldn't hear well. The next day I couldn't watch Juno with my roommate and his friends because I couldn't hear. Everything sounded muffled. Slowly my hearing returned till now I can even hear the screech of breaks that I never thought I'd miss.

It's gone down quite a bit, at first it was louder than anything and I couldn't even read anything without doubling over and reading it again twice or thrice. Now I can read no problem and I can mostly write fine too. Sleeping is hit or miss. Some nights it's fine others not so much.
The real thing that pisses me off is that the Doctor just shrugs when I told him. He checked my hearing and gave me pills for my triglycerids because it "might" help. This was somewhat frustrating.

Last week when I took a break from watching media on the computer, I discovered that that had a terrible effect on my tinnitus. Apparently concentrating on a Video with audio, forced my brain to drown out the ringing to focus on the dialog. This is called lateral inhibition. It also works with the sound of water flowing (I experienced that in Big Sur) and the sounds of coquis (crickets sometimes work too). Why isn't there a medical program for this? There's got to be one.

Then there are the moments when I've had blissful silence in my head. Suddenly it gets quiet and you realize just how much of your sanity is affected by the ringing. Those are rare, but more common are the moments when the pitch changes. It becomes a low hum that's not bothersome at all. What causes this? Why can't it be repeated? Or why does clenching my jaw change the tone higher?

The most challenging part is that this is a pretty lonesome investigation, since there is very little literature I've been able to find online and medical community is fairly apathetic. Almost all I find is in reference to hearing loss combined with tinnitus. Or tinnitus in career musicians, but for me what then?

I could sure use help on this if anybody knows anything that really helps.

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