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Tinnitus: Ringing in the Brain

Josef Rauschecker talks about the science behind tinnitus and treatment options. I have been fighting tinnitus for about ten years now. For the most part, I have adapted. There are times when it becomes very pronounced. It can lead to a very negative state of being when that happens.

If you suffer from tinnitus, Josef offers some excellent insight into this awful condition.

Tinnitus Update

I received a lot of emails on my recent post about tinnitus. Thank you for the kind words of support.

What is different for me this time around compared to when the tinnitus first emerged three years ago? I do not have the same intensity of emotional response to the condition. Is the condition challenging? At times, you bet it is. Last night, I awoke around 3am and I was shocked at the intensity of the ringing noise in my head. However, I was able to control the “fight or flight” response and I resumed sleeping. Three years ago, I would have been overcome with anxiety and nausea. Three years ago, I did not sleep at night.

The process of habituating to the condition seems to be going faster this time as well.

No question that it has been a setback in terms of quality of life. It is hard to describe just how terrible the condition can be when it is present in the conscious mind.

But for those who did write to me, I am doing fine and I am coping much better these days.

Tinnitus

Tinnitus first emerged in December of 2006. It was a horrible time. A very dark, despondent time in my adult life. I posted about the experience here.

My last post on the subject was here. I was pretty proud of how I had adapted to the tinnitus. It no longer impacted my life and I did not notice it most of the time.

Until this week. On Tuesday, something happened and the tinnitus roared back into my left side. Although I did not have the same degree of emotional response as when it had first emerged, the symptoms of intense nausea, headache, stress, lethargy, discomfort and despondency all merrily jumped in. In a way, I was hoping that I had come down with a flu. Despite experiencing some severe nausea, no other flu symptoms emerged.

The intense ringing is back. Overshadowing life.

I suppose I am most upset because I did not think that the tinnitus would re-emerge. I am not the only one to have it return with a vengeance. And I have to be optimistic that I can re-adjust to the perception of the sound. It took about six months to adapt the last time it emerged. I’ll just have to accept it and learn to deal with it again.

Tinnitus

It was almost two years ago that tinnitus emerged. A particularly dark time in my life as posted here.

I have had several people ask me about the battle with tinnitus. And, although it is certainly always there, it is never really there. In other words, I do not notice it most of the time. And for the times that I do notice it, I do not have any emotional response. To me, when I do perceive tinnitus, it is a bit like the noise of a computer fan. Present but not really noticeable.

The best counsel I can give to someone suffering from tinnitus is what I took from this website:

1. Don”™t despair or Panic. The condition can be overcome. You will need to be patient and realize there will be setbacks, trials and tribulations as you move forward to your goal of habituating or no longer perceiving the Tinnitus. It is comforting to note that the vast majority of people who have Tinnitus are eventually able to habituate it. If there is no fear, anxiety, worry or negative emotion associated with Tinnitus sound then the autonomic and limbic system in the brain won’t perceive the sound in a negative light and the sound either goes away or is habituated (the sound is there but not noticed no longer perceived). If it is noticed it is no more annoying then your air conditioning fan or computer fan. In the beginning if there was no extreme physical or emotional stress the best course of action would be simply to ignore the sound and not to worry about it. For those that have had the condition for a longer period of time Auditory Habituation using sound therapy may be more appropriate.

2. Don”™t believe all the negative literature, negative counseling and horror stories. When a physician tells you “You need to just live it”? don”™t believe it. There is a lot that can be done and there is a lot of reason for hope. The “wall of worry”? followed by a negative emotional response is exactly what makes the condition worse. Unfortunately, many “Resources”? out there don”™t provide sufferers with much hope and practical suggestions. As a result the condition simply worsens.

3. Avoid trying so called “miracle cures”? that are not supported by medical research. If a miracle cure fails your stress and anxiety levels will be increased. Again, the “wall of worry”? followed by a negative emotional response is exactly what makes the condition worse.

4. Despite all the negative press more likely than not Tinnitus from a loud event (Disco Tinnitus) may go away as long as you don”™t worry and develop a deep emotional response to it. Let it go its course and get plenty of rest and sleep. The worst case in most situations is that after treatment you will habituate or be able to ignore the Tinnitus. The noise may be there but most of the time you won”™t notice it or perceive it as annoying. This is the subject of Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT). See attached links if you wish to find a professional registered in this technique.

5. No regrets. Although it is good to understand the events leading up to the tinnitus don”™t beat yourself up over the cause or whether you could have avoided it. Don”™t beat yourself up over events in your control that you feel have made it worse. Practice a no regrets policy; it is all water under the bridge. These kinds of things happen and you would be surprised to find out how many people you know have been affected by Tinnitus in some way. It is good to determine what the cause was as this will allow you to understand the condition and move on. Was it a loud noise, severe emotional or physical stress, or an illness that led to the onset of the ear noise?

6. Early on, it is often better to avoid using ear plugs or other hearing protection unless you are in fact protecting yourself from expected loud noises especially if you are hypersensitive to sound (i.e. people talking, loud children). The continual use of earplugs may trigger hyper sensitive hearing or Hypercausis in some individuals. (Consult your physician)

7. Focus on the positive. Despite widespread literature to the contrary the worst case is that with treatment you will habituate the sound after a period of time. This means eventually most of the time you won”™t notice it. Studies have shown this occurs despite the pitch of the sound or the volume level. The best case is that the sound simply goes away.

Living With Tinnitus

It has been one year since my tinnitus emerged. When I first came down with tinnitus, I was in a very desperate state. And I did not come across much in the way of hope in this battle. Although I knew that I was not alone with this condition, there was not much in the way of direct encouragement.

I received an email from someone afflicted with tinnitus who had read about my journey on this blog. And I felt compelled to write him to let him know that tinnitus can be overcome. That there is hope and that the vast majority of people who suffer from tinnitus learn to adapt.

If you suffer from tinnitus, there is hope. It may take time, and there will be setbacks, but there is hope.

One year later and tinnitus no longer impacts my life. Yes, it is still there, making ringing noises somewhere inside my head. I just do not notice it 99 percent of the time.

Ear Infections and Hearing Loss

Last year, at this time, I was struggling through a difficult issue with tinnitus. Tinnitus is a ringing sound inside the head. Not fun. Last year, at this time, I was also struggling with a nasty flu.

This year I have endured another bout with the flu. Although the major symptoms have subsided, I am still working through an ear infection. Right side only. Not as severe as the tinnitus. But enough to be extremely bothersome.

I could tell my hearing was off. At first, I thought it was due to some exposure to loud sounds. I had been rehearsing in the studio with some other musicians last week and my right ear was in line with the drummer. However, the hearing was off just on the low frequency sounds, not on the high frequency sounds.

I use a tool on the Mac called ToneTester to check my hearing. The program generates tones for each ear, and lets you adjust the difference between the pitches. Normal hearing should perceive equal amplitude and pitch for both ears.

My right ear stays in pitch with my left ear until 220Hz. At that point, down until 55Hz, I am at least a tone to a tone and a half off consonance. This condition, known as “binaural diplacusis” or “interaural pitch difference” makes sound coming into my right ear higher than the same sound coming into my left ear. For example, if someone were to play a single key on a piano, it would sound to me as if they were playing two adjacent keys at the same time. And only below 220Hz. Nonetheless, for a musician, this is pretty extreme dissonance.

I am also off level, ear to ear, by 3 to 5 dB from the bottom end of my audio perception to 87Hz.

Hopefully I will be back to consonance shortly. I’ve endured enough issues with my hearing and for someone with a passion for audio, this type of condition is enough to make one mad.

Week in Review

From my travels on the web last week.

Scott Kelby has a new book: the 7-point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3. He has a collection of somewhat flawed exposures here. You work to recover those photos using the techniques in his book. I learned some new and very interesting techniques. I really, really enjoy Scott’s work. He has some great books on using Photoshop.

Maybe it is time to stop buying all those water bottles. We bring home a couple of cases a week. We also have a high-end water filtration system. I could get a couple of these and save some money.

If you rebuilt your Mac to run Leopard, you may need to grab hold of some of these 20 useful downloads.

I am thinking about doing a photography workshop. Most of the ones I have reviewed are based out of the states. I did find Mike Guilbault’s site here. Looks like he offers some interesting workshops close to home.

Noise. 24 hours a day. Tinnitus is the last thing I hear before I go to sleep and the first thing I hear when I wake up. Thankfully, I do not perceive it most of the time. But it is always there. I receive numerous emails from people who suffer tinnitus. I understand your pain and there is hope. You can learn to cope with this horrid condition.

Dealing With the Fear of Tinnitus

It has been about seven months since I experienced the onset of Tinnitus. The initial onset was alarming and stressful. There were days when I would arrive home and put my head between my hands and cry. I couldn’t sleep. I lost my appetite. And I wasn’t sure if I would be able to cope with the noise inside my head. My experience is similar to this story here. What really troubled me though, was the fear.

I am able to cope now, and the noise, while still perceived at times, mostly at night, no longer impacts my daily life. I live without fear which was not the case when the Tinnitus first emerged. So there is hope for those who struggle with this condition. If you are in Canada and suffer with Tinnitus, I recommend taking a look at this site.

I subscribe to CarePages which is an online support community for people coping with illness. There are so many amazing stories of people responding to exceptionally difficult challenges. A source of inspiration.

One quote that I came across on the CarePages site stuck with me during those first few difficult months with Tinnitus:

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. — Eleanor Roosevelt