I’ve been struggling with tinnitus recently. AKA ringing in the ears. It started about 6 weeks ago…one night before bed, I went around the house, turning off all the lights, TVs, music I listen to when I work, etc., but I could still hear this high-pitched radio frequency (RF) sound. I thought it was an electrical device left on (like leaving on the CD player, but nothing is playing). I went through my office and our family room trying to find the offending appliance only to realize there wasn’t one.
I’ve since learned that tinnitus can be caused by a wide variety of things, from medications (like antibiotics and aspirin) to excessive loud noises (my hairdryer). Whatever the cause, it’s a real pain in the ass.
Most of the day, I have music on, or there’s background noise (after all, I have two small kids), so it’s at night when I notice it the most. The house is quiet, the kids are asleep, and my husband is either watching something on TV using his headphones, or he’s diving into his computer like me. Most of the ringing happens in my left ear, although sometimes it’s also in my right. I hear everything from a high-pitched RF sound to whooshing to squeaking.
It’s annoying and there’s no cure.
My husband would tell me to just turn some music on to drown out the sound, and that works some of the time. But the problem is I like quiet. I like hearing nothing. I’m happy to drive around in the car with no music on. Quiet gives the thoughts in my brain some space to churn, mix, and fester. So when it’s not quiet, which is pretty much all the time now, it’s very distracting. I’m having issues concentrating as of late. I find it hard to sit down at my computer and get into my story. Mostly it’s just irritating hearing noise that I know isn’t there…and it’s getting louder.
When I returned from my research trip/holiday in London last week, I brought back with me a killer sinus infection (great souvenir, eh?). Oddly enough, with my sinuses so full of snot (and lots of fluid in my ears), I didn’t hear any ringing, but I had to start a round of antibiotics to help alleviate my sinus infection. I’m not sure if its my newly-cleaned-out sinuses that are causing the louder noise, or perhaps the antibiotics, but I’m to the point now where I’m ready to see an ENT.
The other thing that often accompanies tinnitus is hearing loss, which scares me just a wee little bit, partly because I don’t want to be the person in denial who constantly says, “What? What?” every time someone asks a question, but also because I love hearing my kids’ voices, my classical music, and my husband telling me he loves me (hearing that he emptied the dishwasher is a bonus).
So tomorrow I will be calling up my ENT to see what the next steps are to officially diagnose me and determine the amount of sound my ears are generating. And hopefully to learn ways to cope with or tune out the extra noise in my head, because I’d really like to hear some quiet again.