I Figured It Out... Dehydration, Dry Air, Allergens Were the Things Responsible for My Tinnitus

Discussion in 'Support' started by trancerobot, May 12, 2018.

    1. trancerobot

      trancerobot Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Dehydration, dry air, allergens. These were the things responsible for my tinnitus.

      Starting with an incident on a school bus half a life time ago, I'd live with ringing in my right ear. Pressure also built up, sometimes to the point of pain. Recently I've learned that the outer edges of the cochlea - especially the part facing the eardrum - is responsible for detecting higher frequencies. It works like the opposite of a wind instrument in that the largest part detects the highest pitch, and the smallest part detects the lowest pitch. Since this is a sensory organ rather than a brass instrument, I can understand why.

      What also makes sense is the idea that perhaps packed mucus can affect blood circulation in that region of the cochlea, maybe killing delicate hair sells there or at least rendering them dysfunctional. It's worth noting that in addition having tinnitus, my right ear is weakened and can't hear much over 8000 khz.

      In any case, I had habituated to the noise, and possibly the pressure, and I wasn't bothered unless it became truly awful or painful. Over the years I'd have good times and bad, but lately that variation has become more severe than not:

      In 2014 I awoke to a building pressure in my left ear, the good one, that would turn out to be an ear infection. This was after sleeping under the air current of a fan placed across the room. I liked sleeping under fans - the noise and wind was soothing. I haven't done that since...

      Between 2014 and 2016 I'd hear an intermittent ringing in that ear, usually at a low frequency - around 3khz. Tensing the muscles around my euchastian tubes such that they made a slight popping noise cleared that up in seconds... so I wasn't worried about it.

      On one morning in 2016, that stopped working. It's been ringing ever since at varying intensities. At one point I thought it had gone away, but it stabilized at an easily masked level that I only notice when I'm in a quiet room, and only if I focus on it. The tinnitus frequency between ears are very similar and at around 8 khz. It's louder on the right, and thus feels like it's still on that side of my head. Unless it gets bad...

      Christmas Eve 2017, I had a spike brought on by severe congestion. Everything sounded weird and tinny, and even a little painful. I was fearful of another impending infection, so I immediately ran out and bought Benadryl Cold and Sinus, which has a decongestant. By the end of that day I could feel it draining and getting back to normal. From then on I considered that medication to be my "Nuclear Option" for dealing with that situation.

      So when last month I experienced a tinnitus spike so severe it brought me to tears, I thought that I knew what to do, and it almost worked. The next few days was off and on... but I was never sure and I was always aware of the side effects (Benadryl makes you sleepy and negatively affects your memory), so I was reluctant to take the maximum safe dosage. Eventually the tinnitus settled at a constant frightening level despite that initial effort to control it. Adding insult to injury, it would worsen as soon as I attempt sleep, and if I managed to actually fall asleep, it would wake me up early the next morning.

      Sleep deprived, distracted, and anxious, for a few days it felt like I was falling apart. At the darkest point, when I was thinking of something I shouldn't be thinking about, it helped to consider what my Dad is currently going through - he has a form of ALS. Though the prognosis isn't as dire as someone with the traditional variant, he's still severely weakened. This is a man who made a career out of physical labor. He's an expert martial artist and Air Force veteran. He was a landscaper, a bricklayer, a roofer, and so on. His asset was his ability to move and keep going until the job was done. This disease has taken that from him.

      I've been depressed about that anyway, but in the midst of my own issue, I realized something - Dad's still strong. Mentally he's undefeated. Half of his strength was always his mind, it's what allowed him to push his body further than most, and his disease won't ever take that.

      I decided that if he can do it - if he can wake up every day with nerve pains and muscle weakness and keep going - to continue do things that others in his situation wouldn't even consider - I can take some ringing in my ears. What I have is nothing compared to what he's going through.

      The way I think of it - tinnitus is pain. We may not perceive it as such until it gets bad, but that's what it is. In addition, there's no cure for most to suffer it. But know that you're not alone. You're not limited to relating to those with the same condition either - Many people suffer different, incurable pains, often severe, and they manage to deal with it. They keep going. If you need strength, think of these people. Chances are, you already know someone.

      As for me, that put an end to my dark thoughts and spurred a renewed resolve to get to the bottom of things.

      So after a lot of thinking and more trial and error, I've concluded that it was my environment and the bad habits that encouraged it:
      • I have a long haired cat and I let him sleep on my bed. I've put a stop to that, washed the sheets, and ran over them with a sticky lint roller. There was a lot of hair.
      • I vacuumed the carpet and mopped the kitchen floor.
      • I bought a different kind of litter and refreshed the litter box. (The old kind had strong aroma chemicals and was a little too clumpy anyway.)
      • I took out the trash - in the course of this, discovering a mold growing inside the can that practically took my breath away (insta-asthma - I'm very allergic to this). So...
      • I cleaned the trash can with bleach.
      • I washed the dishes - in the course of this, discovering a sour smell coming out of the disposal. So...
      • I cleaned the disposal by running it under hot water for a while with a dash of lemon dish soap.
      • I cleaned the shower curtain, the shower head, the toilet...
      • I bought an air purifier.
      • I cleaned and ran the humidifier.
      • I drank more water and started eating bananas/taking magnesium (good for ear health).
      • To help me sleep, I also took melatonin. Though it couldn't keep me asleep longer than six hours during the worst of it, I did have some awesome dreams.
      The result was an overall improvement of my situation. It only took about two to three weeks to get a hold of myself and figure it out. In the course of which, I also discovered that the maintenance man didn't properly replace the air filter on my air conditioner blower (I live in an apartment). Here's a little back story to illustrate why that's relevant:

      The ringing in the second ear began at the previous apartment in 2016. One reason I moved is that I suspected that the place was infested with mold or some other allergen. There was also a gaping hole above the blower and behind the filter - meaning that nasty above-ceiling air was being blown all throughout the apartment. Any time the AC ran, my tinnitus would spike. When I left, I felt a massive improvement.

      So when I saw that filter just lying there this month, I got kinda mad. Nearly a month of struggling at that point may have been triggered by that one thing... though if I were honest, it was much more than that. I was living in filth, and my body had finally had enough.

      And while rectifying that helped a great deal, I decided to start taking Dayquil to forcibly drain my ears, as I had begun to notice they were feeling pressurized. Dayquil contains a compound called Phenylephrine, which is also in Benadryl Cold and Sinus. I originally bought the Dayquil to sooth the extremely sore throat I get when I catch a cold. When I noticed it had the same active ingredient for decongesting that the special Benadryl had (normal Benadryl does not have it - and no, it did not help), I decided to start taking that instead.

      This was the start of a sort of "Great Awakening" in the understanding of my tinnitus. That... at least in my case, it's probably entirely mucus related. It's worth mentioning that during the worst of it, I was constantly coughing up flem. I had a persistent cough in general that I learned to just ignore... and all of this was that negligence coming to a head. All the allergens, the bad habits, the dehydration, made for a gross thick mucus generating machine... in my face.

      For the past three days that I have taken Dayquil, I have felt it draining from my eustachian tubes, and I can tell you that the sensation feels very alien to me... it's like having a runny nose inside your head. I can also lie down without the tinnitus worsening, and last night, I had my first normal, non-melatonin assisted nights rest in about five or six weeks!

      So I think what happened is that both my ears were already clogged up. All that is needed each time was the littlest push from the season changing, an unclean bachelor lifestyle, the AC drying the air up or pushing around dust, stupid kids, and things like that. When the mucus builds up, the ringing intensity increases. In ears without tinnitus, it starts. Sometimes it goes away, but eventually it doesn't.

      Suffice it to say, I've developed a new appreciation for the delicate structures of the middle and inner ear. I'm 31 and could live another 50 years, so I don't want things to get worse than they already are. I'm going to take this more seriously now and report the situation to my ENT.

      Though the tinnitus continues, I am in control, and for sure... it's a great feeling.
      • Like Like x 4
    2. AUTHOR

      trancerobot Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      I forgot to mention the cooler full of mold in the middle of the living room. That one was a big oops. I hadn't opened it in a year, couldn't smell it, but it isn't sealed so for all I knew that was a big source of my problem. It's clean now, though there's a thin sheen of slipperiness that'll need a degreaser to get off (eww).

      Also a small update: I stopped taking Dayquil yesterday and slept just fine last night. Today I awoke to even less tinnitus. The little popping noise I can make is harder to come by - I'm not talking about the valsalva maneuver (never helped, stopped doing it) - but what I described earlier, which probably involves the use of the tensor and levator muscles. Before, I could pop the ears about 50 or 60 times in rapid succession, now it's down to about two or three. I'm also feeling less drainage, though it does still happen.

      Because it's so easy for me not to drink water, I've decided on drinking a typical bottle once every even hour. Since I'm awake 16 hours a day, that's 8 times. Considering the size of a typical bottle is 16 ounces, that's twice what's necessary, so forgetting to do it occasionally is okay.

      I'm also considering buying a personal steam inhaler as an alternative to Dayquil for when I mess up and cause another spike.

      This... might need to go under Success Stories. I certainly feel successful.
      • Like Like x 1
    3. JasonP
      No Mood

      JasonP Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      This is very interesting. I am so glad it worked for you! How many days did you take it before you started noticing it lessening your tinnitus?
      • Creative Creative x 1
    4. AUTHOR

      trancerobot Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Sorry for the super late reply JasonP.

      It's hard to say, because I don't think the tinnitus lessened in lock-step with the reduced pressure. I think the inner/middle ear needs to have a little time to recover.

      That said, it took a day of taking it every four hours before I could feel it drain. By the end of the second day I was pretty confident that it was getting better, though I remember feeling concerned that it was constantly draining... like it was endless, or perhaps really thick. Eventually it stopped, and I wasn't able to click it repeatedly in that way I described before. By this point, the ringing was greatly reduced.

      It would get worse again in the next month or two, likely thanks to that AC filter falling out again. I gave it a closer look and realized that the problem is the hardware itself - something's missing there that's meant to hold it in. I found a small block of wood nearby that provides a tight fit... A week later it seemed like things were getting better.

      I also started taking my Azelastine and Fluticasone like I was supposed to. I'm not sure if this helps, but it seems like it. At first it didn't, but perhaps that's because the environmental agitation was still ongoing.

      It has also been discovered recently that I had a severe Vitamin D deficiency (I was also feeling tired a lot). I want to say that the prescribed vitamin helps, but I'm not sure. I suspect that it does, but it's probably one of those little things that you can't do alone and expect results from.

      At the moment, things are great. My ringing is down with small occasional increases. I run a stand-alone filter near the AC intake at home and a smaller one at work, both 24/7. I take the aforementioned Azelastine and Fluticasone every day, and Vitamin D as prescribed. I try to stay hydrated, and I check the AC filter occasionally.

      When I'm confident I can keep it here, I'll begin a regular regimen of Notched White Noise and ACRN therapies, and I'll just keep doing that until I croak.
      • Like Like x 1
    5. AUTHOR

      trancerobot Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      A little update:

      I gradually fell out of practice drinking lots of water and all the other stuff, and of course my tinnitus gradually went up. After my lowest point, which I won't describe, I tried to get it back down by resuming all the things I thought were helping. When it didn't improve, I resolved to figure this out once and for all.

      I'm reluctant to take the medicines I've described above: Benadryl Cold and Sinus has phenylephrine, which I thought was helping, but it's still Benadryl. It makes me sleepy and is known to inhibit memory. Dayquil also has that stuff I thought was helping, but it keeps me up at night and makes me feel weird. I often have to drive for my job, sometimes for long distances, so I can't rely on these.

      Even when I thought they were working, it took a few days, and I was eager to stop, so I did.

      I rate my tinnitus internally on a scale from 0 to 10. I've been at all levels, so here's how they tend to work out:

      0 - I've had brief moments, separated by years, where I have absolutely no tinnitus. The last one was a few months ago (and only on the right), in the midst of a pretty bad attack. The ear was trying to drain, I felt something shift, and for a second, the ringing was gone completely. I actually thought I had gone deaf. Then it came back.
      1 - Super rare. By the time I notice it, it's because the tinnitus is increasing from that point.
      2 - Like 1, it's rare. I'm usually thankful and happy with it this low. It's all it takes to make my day.
      3 - The old normal. I miss it. Sometimes it comes back, but not nearly as often as I'd like.
      4 - The new normal. I can accept this, but it doesn't make me happy.
      5 - Above normal. Acceptable, but it doesn't make me happy.
      6 - When I start getting concerned.
      7 - When I start getting distracted.
      8 - Focusing becomes noticeably difficult.
      9 - I'm unwilling to hold conversations at this point.
      10 - Suicidal thoughts... and more.

      A few nights ago I was at a 10. Even though it's under control now, this really concerns me. It's not something I want to happen in the middle of a meeting at work, when something important is happening, or any time I need to focus.

      Also as this is a relative scale, what I consider a 10 now may not be comparable to what I'll consider a 10 later. This really scares me. So after the last attack, I decided it was time to really investigate it.

      Phenylephrine is common in cold medications, but alone is also known as Sudafed PE. It's the new Sudafed after the government made it more difficult to get the old more effective one. The original Sudafed is made up of pseudoephedrin, but people were using it to make meth, so it was taken off the shelves. Phenylephrine's reliability is in question, and studies have shown it to be no more effective than a placebo.

      To test this, I bought a bottle of Sudafed PE and tried it. After about a day of taking a pill every 4 hours, there was little change in my level of tinnitus, and little sensation of drainage. Apparently, what I thought was working may not have done as much for me as I thought.

      After this, I decided to continue taking it, along with loads of water, chewing gum, my steam inhaler. I figured that perhaps it was working all along - reducing mucus production - but that I had dried or thick mucus in my ears that needed to be watered down. After another day of this, it did seem drain and the tinnitus did go down a little, but I wondered if there was something that could help loosen that mucus up.

      Turns out there is. It's called Metamucil and/or Mucinex. It's really just guaifenesin (an expectorant). The branded medications tend to have a bunch of other stuff, including phenylephrine. Since I had plenty of that now, I got the most generic thing I could find that comes with just the one desired ingredient. The brand is "check this out! big savings!"... Krogers caries it. Other stores are likely to have their own generic brand. Just look for guaifenesin.

      So I tried this last night, taking it twice: once at 7, another just before bed at 11 (along lots of water and a steam inhaler session). Throughout that evening, I could feel my ears draining, and it started right away. The next morning, I awoke to a much reduced sensation of pressure and a lower level of tinnitus, kinda like going from a 6 to a 3. I'm still there, and it's great.

      Still, I'm hesitant to call this a success. The prior posts are kind of a false start - my luck there is likely a consequence of a combination of things, some of which helped, but alone does little. This may not be much different.

      If you try guaifenesin, be sure to drink a lot of water throughout the day. Be patient, be consistent, and also try steam and the valsalva maneuver.

      I know earlier I said the valsalva maneuver didn't help me - and that remains true - but I've found that it is a good measure of how good or bad my eustachian tube blockage is. Sometimes I simply can't do it. Usually I can get air into the left ear, but the right is more difficult. If I can't get into either, I know it's pretty bad. If I can get into both easily, then I know I'm doing alright. My sensation of pressure in both ears is probably not what it should be, because I'm just used to the pressure all the time. If you're unsure about what's going on, this maneuver at the very least will help you figure it out.

      I know everyone's tinnitus is different. Don't be disappointed if this (plain-Jane Mucinex) doesn't work for you. Lately I've had a lot of congestion anyway, which I think is aggravated at work as a consequence of an allergy. Your situation is likely to be completely different. If you do try it though, know that this is probably better for you than the first idea with the Benadryl or Dayquil. It won't make you feel sleepy, drunk, or weird. It'll just make you thirsty - when you should be drinking lots of water anyway.

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