Distortion of Voices — Is This Reactive Tinnitus, Dysacusis, or Something Else?

Discussion in 'Support' started by Ace, May 27, 2018.

    1. Ace
      Musical

      Ace Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      July 2016
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud jam session, of course on top of years of performance
      Hello, I'm new here! 27 year old saxophonist, vocalist, and composer with chronic tinnitus. Here's some quick background, but feel free to skip this paragraph to get to the specifics ;). I did lurk here a bit for some information at the initial onset of my tinnitus and have been lurking a bit more recently as I noticed in early March that my condition has become clearly worse following a month full of lengthy recording sessions and extended saxophone practice sessions in a reverberant room without hearing protection. The horn can exceed 90 db quite easily, and often hits peaks past 100. OOPS! Clearly I got way too comfortable after having habituated once. Haha, I was even giving people advice on how to overcome their noise-induced tinnitus. Now these past three months I've pretty much been trying to rehabituate, and I'm finding that this is taking way longer than last time. While I'm not wrapped in despair to the point of complete immobility as I was the first few days in March, I still feel like after every couple of good days I get knocked back into a pattern of anxiety, the "what-if"s and "why-me"s. I know it's not a good habit, I'm workin on it. By the way otoacoustic emmisions and standard hearing tests came back at average levels, but most of my tinnitus problems are in higher frequencies at which the tests did not measure. Anyway, while the constant tinnitus (mostly high frequencies past 15khz, but some subtly distinguishable tones between there and around 1000hz that I can identify by pitch class) is bothersome for sure and I'm not always able to brush off the spikes as easily as I could when I was habituated, the tinnitus isn't the main source of my current anxiety.


      I'm not sure how to classify this, but I've been noticing for a little over a week now that my voice and some other voices sound slightly distorted in my right ear when spoken at around the average conversation volume or higher. It's mostly noticeable with earplugs in, as the occlusion effect makes me sound louder even if I'm speaking quietly, but it's definitely noticeable without plugs at a conversational volume a fair amount of the time. To describe it: imagine a tinnitus tone occurring within a very specific narrow frequency range (in my case around 4000hz) that is heard JUST during certain peaks of your voice, but between each word it isn't heard at all(or if it is, it's so quiet that it's being masked by the rest of my tinnitus tones lol). I can also describe the sound as a sort of a very slight rattling, if you can picture that? I can try to describe it better if y'all want, but I hope this gives you an idea.


      Perhaps it's important to note that leading up to this, I have spent the past three months perhaps going a little overboard with protecting my hearing, as I've been either using plugs for or actively avoiding exposure to most sounds that average anywhere above just 70db, aside from maybe using the shower or sink. I keep my music down, and use earplugs at work, mostly to protect against sudden loud noises(I work in a kitchen, and while it isn't as loud as a busy restaurant kitchen would be, there is still potential for things to clang around. Probably not at gunshot volume though). I have played a few notes on sax here and there in an effort to start putting that part of my life back together, but the few times I tried I didn't play for long, just to play it safe. I check SPL with a phone app whenever I enter a somewhat noisy environment. I've never lived a quieter few months, and with all my worry about making my T worse I've ended up super sensitive to sounds- not that they have been literally painful in any event, but they make me anxious for sure.

      Now part of me suspects that the psychological basis of that sensitivity is beginning to manifest physically. Last week one of my coworkers slammed an office window pretty close to me, and while I found relief in testing that the peak of his hardest window slam is only slightly past 100db, the event had me go to the bathroom where it's quiet to check if my T was worse. Of course I'm not sure if the T got any worse (y'all know it gets hard to tell after it's already bad enough lol), but that day is around the time when I started to notice that the distortion of voices in my right ear was becoming a pattern. I wonder if it's because my phonophobia is turning into some sort of hyperacusis or heightened TTTS. Since almost two years ago I noticed that the inside of especially my right ear would twitch when I would clink dishes in my cabinets, drop the end of my macbook charger onto my desk, finishing sentences, etc (all of these in the absence of much background noise). But the sensation seems to be triggered far more easily now, or at least it has in the past few days- yesterday I noticed a clear twitch response inside my right ear when gently placing a pen on my desk, and it was more pronounced than usual for the whole day.

      Last things to note that might be related

      1- I suppose have some varying ETD? I usually hear some clicking in my ears when I swallow- it was really pronounced a few days ago, when a sip of water would cause my right ear to click 4 times! My sinuses tend to be pretty bad too, nose is always clogged. Been doing saline spray but I think I might try out the neti pot soon. I know it's all connected in here, so maybe addressing one thing can help another

      2- I've not been diagnosed but I have a bit of TMJ as well. Bad habit of grinding my teeth and popping my jaw around since I was young. MOSTLY kicked the habit but I can still feel and HEAR my jaw popping around when I open my mouth, sometimes even with a slight jaw opening.


      Anyway, my coping strategy for the constant tinnitus is mainly about addressing my emotional response and enjoying my life despite it, which worked well for my previous habituation and still does continue to give me SOME genuinely good days. But my fear of sounds really does put me at risk for feeling down about my condition and this new symptom doesn't help. I'm realizing now that I need to address the anxiety more than ever, especially in regards to my fear of sound, but not limited to it. I'm hoping that is all I need to eliminate the distorted sensation, but wether or not that is the case I know that reducing anxiety is going to be absolutely crucial to my well being going forward, so in the coming weeks I will be seeking professional help at the very least for mental and general health concerns. I promise to periodically post my general progress in this thread, but for now I just wanted to ask if anyone else has experienced this type of distortion, and if they have been able to get it under control. Much thanks in advance to anyone adding to this discussion, and for many of the posts on this forum that helped me in the past. I hope I will be able to do the same for someone else eventually.
       
    2. TLion

      TLion Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      2006
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      stress/loud concert
      I am experiencing something similar since one 1,5 months. My Tinnitus changed in March 2018. I was perfectly habituated before. Now there are days which are almost like before with the difference that my right ear is somehow a little louder. BUT there are also days where my right ear feels and sounds "distorted". It's like some days the Tinnitus pitch is so high that every sound has that "sssssssss" on it. I already worked on my anxiety and am taking ADs (Paroxetin) cause this "sssssssss" let me constantly freak out. It's already gotten better but not good. Yesterday I had almost no Tinnitus at all. Today I hear the "sssssssss" over every sound. It's like a reactive distortion. I'm taking some supplements and hope the 1,5 months in aren't permanent, maybe a long spike? Don't know what to think. I sleep pretty well and honestly don't know what's causing this weird sensations.
       
    3. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Ace
      Musical

      Ace Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      July 2016
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud jam session, of course on top of years of performance
      I'm sorry to hear that you're having a similar problem @TLion. I'm not sure if I would describe mine as an sssssss, but I don't want to make any sound that forces it into the forefront in order to get a better description lol

      I mostly only notice my sound when I am talking, and definitely when whistling. I haven't tested to see if it still happens in the presence of a lot of background noise. I'm a little anxious about pushing it, and I was disturbed yesterday to notice that I heard this distortion while listening to a certain song with electric guitars at just around 70db or less, but MOST music sounds fine for me thank goodness.

      I did find this thread by @Coffeebean in which he says that he managed to MOSTLY alleviate a similar problem. He has hyperacusis and tinnitus that specifically overlays external sounds, but he found a way to get it to mostly subside.
      https://www.tinnitustalk.com/thread...sensitive-tinnitus-80-gone.28193/#post-335724
       
    4. Starthrower
      Wtf

      Starthrower Member Benefactor Ambassador Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      January 2002
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Dental Surgery
      So glad you are addressing the anxiety issue with a professional @Ace That was my first step and many disagree with using medication even for a short time. But it saved my life. And I had no issues. I just don't talk about it because many will come back with their horror stories and scare people from being helped. And some are afraid to mention it openly on a support board.

      Yes I have this on and off. But not so often unless I have had an problem with loud noises like an unexpected trash collection truck right behind me while I got out of my truck in my garage.

      This eases up with time and if the anxiety is also affecting your body it is tight and wound up and puts pressure every where even in the jaw around the ear(s). So you may also want to find relaxation techniques like guided meditation?

      Hope you will keep updating. And that you find relief.
       
      • Like Like x 1
    5. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Ace
      Musical

      Ace Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      July 2016
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud jam session, of course on top of years of performance
      Thanks for the reassurance @Starthrower

      I don't know if I'm going to use medication but I have not ruled it out yet.

      Do you find sudden loud noise to make you anxious, and are you prone to wearing earplugs often? That's how I've been feeling for the past few months, and I'm beginning to try and correct that.

      Also, I see that your T was caused by dental work, but do you suspect that there may be some additional tinnitus do to any extreme noise exposure in the past?

      How long does it typically take to ease up for you?

      I do think the distortion is subsiding a little bit, as I notice it SEEMS to take more volume from my voice to trigger it than it did the other day. The real test is seeing how the work day goes. I did notice the distortion immediately when I tried whistling, so I'm just gonna go ahead and not whistle for a few days lol. Still I hope it is actually getting better and that it's not just my imagination. I'll try to stay positive.

      And yes, I've begun to get back on guided meditation via the Headspace app- I started up with the basics a bit more than a month ago and it helped for a while with my mood in general but I took a break for weeks because of one day when I couldn't focus on anything but my tinnitus and thus began a bit of a descent back to anxiety. I wish I hadn't stopped but I guess there's no point worrying about that now, I've been back into it for about four days now and I feel at least a bit more relaxed. Still, will make my appointments and stuff.
       
    6. IvanRus

      IvanRus Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      04/2017
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      ototoxicity
      I have a somewhat similar feeling.

      This is most clearly manifested in the spike.

      The noise intensifies and it becomes uncomfortable to listen to music - there is not that sense of full listening.

      Sometimes it's even unpleasant to talk and take your speech. But this is during the period of spikes. What is this and why? Now I had a spike, I took a lot of supplements. But the music is not yet comfortable listening.

      I struggle with spike with the help of hormones and vitamins. Who has similar phenomena?

      Probably worth a passive audiometry every half a year on a professional device.
       
    7. Starthrower
      Wtf

      Starthrower Member Benefactor Ambassador Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      January 2002
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Dental Surgery
      @Ace so sorry for the delay. I have to get used to seeing the alerts. Yes, in the first year I always over protected with ear plugs. It took me some time to slowly adjust and only use the plugs when really necessary.

      No I did not have any extreme noise exposure in the past. The damage and nerve damage was done because of a root canal from hell and a very bad specialist having a bad day and my ignorance of the process. My root canal was on the bottom right back molar and the damage was to my jaw bone (fractured) and inner ear canal nerves.

      It sounds like you are doing the right things!! It usually takes a few days when I have been exposed to extreme noise to get settled back down to base line levels for me. It hurts inside my ears and sound is so sensitive during that time. But I have been through it so many times now I know the routine and believe me I freaked out for the first few years!!!
       
    8. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Ace
      Musical

      Ace Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      July 2016
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud jam session, of course on top of years of performance
      @IvanRus sorry, I can't really comment on how supplements affect my T or distortion, as I've not taken any vitamin or drug in the past three months. Well, aside from coffee, though I've been avoiding that lately as well.

      Thanks for the reply @Starthrower . Don't worry about the delay! I've been busy myself so I haven't had time to check back

      I'm not sure if my tinnitus got louder when my coworker slammed that window, in fact I don't think that it did, it's just that that's the day when I began to notice a slight distortion at certain volumes/frequencies, especially with my voice and also with other people's voices. It's been half a month since then and I can confirm that the distortion is now almost never audible at a conversational level, and I even tried shouting and speaking up several times without hearing any distortion when I did. I DO hear it when I whistle, and also I checked a few days ago and noticed that it was very easy to hear the distortion with my right ear occluded. It does make me a bit uneasy, but still I'm relieved to say that it's improving somewhat. Haven't heard distortion at all today, I just wish I wasn't afraid to whistle because I really want to lol. In general though, I do wonder if my improvement is related to my reduction of anxiety.


      As far as tinnitus is concerned- I focused on it way less this week than the weeks prior. This is partly because I don't have earplugs on as much- soon as I put them in I hear it loud and clear. If I observe the patterns of the past three months, I'm about due for another descent into depression and madness over the whole tinnitus situation, but my hope is that the steps I've taken to reduce my anxiety about T and sound in general will prevent that from happening. I had three spikes this week, two of those being the kind where you kinda go deaf in one ear for a second and then the hearing comes back with a certain frequency ringing extra loud. Those tend to throw me off a bit, but I find comfort in the fact that T in general tends to fade into the background because I'm not spending as much mental energy on it, nor am I spending as much mental energy worrying about harmful sounds. Don't get me wrong, I still have plenty of anxiety about loud noises as I've only just begun to chip away at it, and in the past week I've been exposed to some very uncomfortable sounds that made me want to scream bloody murder, but T has not gotten any worse. I've been getting spikes frequently since three months ago both with and without earplugs, and it always returns to baseline... Or at least as far as I can tell, but it's impossible to measure at this point, what's important is that I can successfully tune it out for much of my day.


      Now again, I MAY swing back down to miserable about all of this in a few days, but I have a particularly good feeling about my efforts this time.


      Ear still twitches easily for things like a fork merely touching a plate, but that's nothing new. Will be sure to report further on the distortion factor. Really hope it goes away but for now at least I feel good and still thoroughly enjoy music composition/production.
       
    9. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      Ace
      Musical

      Ace Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      July 2016
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud jam session, of course on top of years of performance
      I wanted to update this thread and say that that particular problem has been solved.

      I have other similar problems now that flared up, probably as a result of me falling back into a habit of overuse of hearing protection, and I hope to combat these in a similar way. It's hard right now, but I will report back on my newer thread over time https://www.tinnitustalk.com/thread...—-sounds-like-bees-buzzing.36302/#post-462283

      Mods/admins may close this thread if they like. I just felt I should post an update here as promised. Thank you.
       
      • Optimistic Optimistic x 2
    10. GBB

      GBB Member Hall of Fame

      Location:
      NYC
      Tinnitus Since:
      2016-2019 (Mild, Cured) 8/2020 (Severe)
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Virus / Microsuction / Acoustic Trauma
      It looks like it took approximately 3 months for this to go away for you, is that correct?
       
      • Good Question Good Question x 1
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