Cicadas. Metal screeching. High-pitched ringing. Whooshing. Pulsing. Static. These are some of the ways of describing the constant sounds of tinnitus.
Frequenting clubs, pub gigs, live concerts and music festivals means there are more younger people today feeling the effect of tinnitus.
According to Tinnitus Australia, one in ten Australians are affected by tinnitus. The American Tinnitus Association estimates that around 15% of the general American public experience from some form of tinnitus.
I’ve lived with tinnitus for almost 20 years, since my early 20s. I remember when I used to come home from Club Blink – the club I’d go to with my friends every Friday night – and my ears would ring as I lay in bed. The ringing would be gone by the time I woke up. But one Saturday after a night out, the ringing didn’t stop.
It didn’t worry me too much, until I told my mum and she said, “Maybe you’ve got tinnitus like me.”
My mum has had tinnitus for as long as I can remember. Her dad had it. When I told my sisters about the constant ringing, they admitted that they had it too.
I visited an audio clinic and got my hearing tested. The results confirmed that I had hearing loss in both ears but that my right ear was worse. (This also happens to be the ear I hear the ringing the loudest.) The audiologist explained that my hearing loss was likely genetic, which probably meant the underlying cause of my tinnitus was genetic, too. I’d thought the loud music from the nightclubs and concerts had caused my tinnitus but would I have gotten it anyway?
Now that I knew I had tinnitus, I wanted to know how I could get rid of it. Apparently, there is no “cure” for tinnitus. What surprised me most was when the audiologist explained that the noise I was hearing – that high-pitched ringing mixed with sirens and bells and cicadas – was my brain creating that sound in response to the damage in my ear. Was it a hallucination? At that moment I just wished it would go away and let there be silence again.
Over the years, I’ve tried different things to ‘fix’ my tinnitus. Calcium tablets, tinnitus apps. None of them worked. I found the best solution to be a mixture of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and sounds stimulation.
I utilise CBT to relax my body and mind, and to deal with the anxiety that comes with tinnitus. CBT has helped me to think about tinnitus as something that I can deal with, not something I have to fight.
The best sound stimulation I found that works for me is listening to rain or thunderstorms. There’s something so incredibly calming about hearing those fat droplets of water plummet to the ground. I particularly like the sound of rain on a metal roof, maybe because it’s at a similar pitch to my tinnitus and seems to ‘cancel it out.’
I’ve also noticed that I like to play music more often while I’m at home, or I leave the television on, even if it’s just an infomercial or a sappy daytime soapie playing. The background noise helps to block out the constant ringing in my ears.
Tinnitus affects me most at night when it’s quiet and there’s no other auditory stimulation to block it out. The tinnitus can become overbearing especially when I’m overtired or stressed, which makes getting to sleep even more difficult. It’s usually during these times that I’ll turn on my white noise app, which gives some relief.
When I first discovered I had tinnitus I was desperate to try to fix it. I still feel like there must be something I’m not doing, or not eating right, which is causing my tinnitus.
I read a great Medium article about living with tinnitus by Remy Sharp. You can read it here: https://link.medium.com/Szy6OyKemX
The whole article resonated with me but one particular part stood out. He was explaining how his mum also had tinnitus and how she copes with it:
This inspired me to speak with my own mum about her tinnitus and find out how she is dealing with it. Her response surprised me.
I don’t worry about it. It’s just there, it’s part of your daily life. You don’t even notice it, except when you’ve got a headache and you remember, that’s right, I’ve got tinnitus.
I’ve learned to live with it. I just ignore it. Sometimes I stop to listen to it and there are three different noises at once. A high pitched buzz, cicadas, and then a low pitched one that sometimes joins in, like a music note. It’s like a band playing in my ears and they’re all trying to outdo each other.
It only becomes obvious if I’ve got a headache or if it’s really quiet and there are no other noises around. I think it would be odd for me if I didn’t hear it, if there were no noises. It’d be like I’ve gone deaf.
If I’m able to become more accepting of my tinnitus, just like Remy’s and my own mum, perhaps that will allow me to find some inner ear peace.
Is it really that simple? I hope so.
Do you deal with tinnitus as well? I’d love to hear your story. Comment below, or for any other enquiries feel free to send me an email at [email protected]