Cervical Tinnitus, Unmasking, and Sleeping Without a Pillow

Discussion in 'Support' started by rtwombly, Apr 29, 2014.

    1. rtwombly

      rtwombly Member

      Southeast USA
      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      My recent experiences have all but convinced me that the origin of my tinnitus is cervical. While my chiropractor is out of town, I'm putting together a document that I hope will help us direct my treatment. I'll share the links first, then mention some personal findings. A couple of these are from these forums, but I include them as they sent me in different directions in my further research.


      That last one is me to a tee. Whacked the back of my head on a doorknob after petting the dog, sometime later unilateral tinnitus on the same side. Virtually identical audiometry left/right except a notch at 4000Hz that could easily be coincidental.

      Now to my personal experiences. Friday I took home a printout of Dr. Wilden's theories on Low Level Laser Therapy. Though his central premise - that LLLT improves hearing - appeals to me, and does not seem to have been conclusively disproved, he ruins his credibility by insisting that every auditory/vestibular complaint results from overwork of the cochlear hair cells, and that all other proposed causes are just disinformation by the hearing aid industry. He seems to lack even a basic understanding of the central nervous system. This is a shame, as I personally think his treatment may have merit, and he's not completely wrong in asserting that the first thing ENTs seem to want to do when they hear you have tinnitus is get you to consider hearing aids.

      With that bug in my ear (*ahem*) I decided to try an experiment based on the theory that my ears were being overworked. Despite my usual dread of silence, I retreated to one of the quietest rooms of my house with no maskers whatsoever and lay on my back with an ice pack behind my head and my knees supported by a pillow. In this first experiment I also had a small pillow behind my head. My tinnitus persisted, of course, but I was surprised to find how tolerable I found it, having made it my habit before now to carry the iPad from room to room or immediately turn on a fan or other noise-maker wherever I went. I lay in the quiet room for about half-an-hour, chatted with my wife a bit, and even rolled onto my affected right side, occluding the ear, which is something I hardly ever did before this test.

      It was evening already when I tried this test, so after brushing my teeth I went very shortly afterward to bed. My bedroom is the very quietest room in my house, so I normally turn on the air purifier and sleep with it blaring all night. But that Friday, I left it off. I lay on my back with my head on a soft pillow and two body pillows keeping me from rolling to either side, my usual Dracula-inspired posture to keep from occluding either ear. And I heard...nothing. Or as near to nothing as I've heard in three months, anyway. I could not honestly tell you if I heard any tinnitus sounds at all. No tone, no hissing. I was "aware" of my symptomatic right ear in the way I have been since the onset of tinnitus, but even the pure tone I could hear in the other room was absent.

      The morning was equally quiet. Not to overextend my story, I had a pleasant, remarkably quiet weekend, despite hearing some terrible news about a friend of the family. Strangely, in the middle of the first day after my quiet night, I had to ask my wife to lower her voice, as she is accustomed to speaking up due to my mild hearing loss.

      I am not CURED by any means, but I have discovered that in my case, aggressive masking is counter-productive. My tinnitus reacts much like hyperacusis to loud sounds and overwork, and even well-meant masking noises can be overwork.

      This post is overly long so I'll briefly relate my other discoveries. First, I verified last night an observation I made some time ago. I get my best, quietest sleep on my back, without a pillow. Anybody who thinks their tinnitus is cervical in origin should give this a try. You have to set your head at its most natural position, with a slight bend, not flat against the bed, and for this you have to have a reasonably healthy neck. My bones are correctly aligned thanks to my chiro; I think I just have some trapped nerves to address and/or let heal. I still use the body pillows to keep me from rolling and do think it's possible that I could get the same effect from perfectly supported side-sleep...but it's very hard to get just in the perfect position on my side. I wake up a few times at night with numb arms or just to use the bathroom, but that's nothing new, and I'm finding it much easier to get back to sleep after waking since I started my "unmasking".

      Last night I also slept with an Aqualizer mouth guard for the first time. It certainly doesn't look like a $30 device, but it kept me from clenching my teeth and stayed in place much better than the boil-n-bit guard I had been using.

      My last observation is that when traveling in a noisy car, it's worth it to wear earplugs. During my bouts with hyperacusis early on, I tried to avoid...well, everything, really...but was too bothered by the tinnitus to use plugs in the car. Now that I've improved/habituated somewhat, I've started wearing plugs any time I'm riding or driving, particularly in my wife's car, which is very noisy. It helps in the same way as avoiding overmasking helps. I get less hissing and my ears don't ache like they have been lately.

      These tips are all new to me as they are to you. I realize my symptoms are uniquely my own, so what helps me may be anethema to somebody else. Please comment if you have cervical symptoms, if you've tried any similar methods to the above, or if you have any questions. Quiet nights to everybody!
      • Agree Agree x 1
    2. Sound Wave

      Sound Wave Member Benefactor

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Probably headphones
      Interesting stuff. Thanks for sharing!

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