Twenty years of tinnitus

March 22, 1995. That’s when my ears started ringing, give or take a day. It was just shy of my 22nd birthday, and I was a senior in college, sitting in a chair in my bedroom, doing homework, when I got one of those random high-pitched tones in my ear.

Except this time, instead of fading out after a few seconds, the tone didn’t leave.

After five or ten minutes I began freaking out. I played in rock bands; I went to a lot of shows; I blasted the car radio on my three-hour drives from home to school. I knew exactly what I was experiencing. I took out the pad I carried around for journaling and notes, turned to a blank page, and wrote to myself, in all caps:

YOU MAY NEVER AGAIN KNOW SILENCE.

Sadly, I was right. With a couple of random, fleeting exceptions, my tinnitus has persisted for twenty years now, an anniversary I’m pleased I didn’t remember last month.

Tinnitus is a disappointing thing to live with. I rarely go to live concerts anymore, and I can’t blast music very often, whether in a car, on a stereo or with headphones.

I’m That Guy wearing earplugs at social functions like weddings and bar mitzvahs. I cover my ears when the express train rumbles past and cringe when fire engines and ambulances race by. At night I can’t fall asleep without some ambient noise in the room.

That said, I’ve gotten used to my tinnitus. Protecting my ears has kept my hearing sharp—I test above average when I get my ears checked—and avoiding loud noises does minimize the ringing. And I stumbled into Earplanes a number of years ago and it’s made my air travel infinitely more comfortable. On par, I’m doing just fine, thanks.

Numerous Ideapad posts over the years have discussed my tinnitus in various forms; if you want to explore, I’d suggest reading “The ringing,” from February 2004, and proceeding into the archives from there.

What I did this summer

It’s been quiet around here because I spent July recovering from my concussion and August catching up from a month of not working full speed.

That said, everything is great! I came out of the trauma fog in time to find lots of fun this summer, including a full 11 days of vacation, which I’d travelblog in this space in detail had we not basically repeated our trip from 2006 to great satisfaction. Shorthand version: Cape Ann; Bass Rocks Ocean Inn; Roy Moore Lobster Co.; Martha’s Vineyard; incredible car ferry reservation luck; Atria and Among the Flowers; Larry David’s ex-wife; ball in the yard with my two growing sons; beaches, starry nights, bunny rabbits, grasshoppers, jellyfish, three-year-olds eating salads, six-year-olds reading 200-page books in one day, an outdoor shower, a flat tire, two more trips to the local playground than we’d made in our previous nine Massachusetts vacations, and a single fish caught with a kids’ rod and reel for the second straight year. Oh, and lots and lots of ice cream. More like this, please.

Diplacusis update

I received this question in an email today:

Did you ever get your ears ‘fixed’ (as mentioned 11/01)? I am frustrated with a similar condition 3+ years and wonder if you found help or enlightenment. My ears don’t seem to fit any standard condition.

After replying in email, I thought I’d share the news.

Greetings David –

Did you ever get your ears ‘fixed’ (as mentioned 11/01)? I am frustrated with a similar condition 3+ years and wonder if you found help or enlightenment. My ears don’t seem to fit any standard condition.

Nancy

Hi, Nancy-

I was fortunate enough to rid myself last year of my aural problems. I don’t get the how or the why, but I found a chiropractor—specifically, a kinesiologist—who specializes in emotional balancing within the body. He “adjusted my chi” and the hum dissipated.

The gist of it, according to the doctor, was that I needed an outlet for all the stress in my life, as I am not one to notice or even admit to stress until after it’s over. For a while, he said, I was letting it get to my hearing.

I’d think it was a bunch of hoo-hah if he didn’t fix my ears.

He did, though. The process took a few weeks, and since then I’ve had some relapses of the hum and the diplacusis but nothing permanent. Months have passed since I last avoided a stereo. The daily tinnitus remains, but comparatively speaking, I’m doing well.

I keep the “cure” to my condition fairly quiet, thanks to its somewhat dubious nature. I’m not sure what you are experiencing, or how much this applies, but my ears have run the gamut, so I know whatever you face cannot be pleasant.

If you’re the kind of person who deals with emotions or stress in an internal manner, though, you should find a chiropractor with a kinesiological focus. Who knows? It may help.

Good luck, and keep your spirits up. With mystery ailments like these, we are our own allies or enemies.

-David