Lowered Threshold for Sound Damage

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself' started by MandoChuck, Mar 21, 2017.

    1. MandoChuck

      MandoChuck Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Not sure: probably being in high school rock band
      Hi everyone,

      I'm so glad I found this forum. It's comforting and definitely gives perspective to read others' experiences.

      I've had tinnitus and related hearing problems for 24 years now. The hardest part for me has been that I seem to have a much lower threshold for further damage from loud noises than other people. I'd love to hear from anyone else who has experienced this phenomenon.

      Let me explain: We all know that loud noises can cause lasting increased ringing, hearing loss, sound sensitivity, distortions, etc., and that the longer we're exposed to the loud noises, the greater the potential effect or longer it lasts. We understand these symptoms can come from damage to the hair cells in the inner ear. For me, all that happens at a much lower volume. For example, if I spend an hour talking with friends in a typical crowded restaurant with no ear plugs, even without recorded music, my ringing will be worse, I'll hear more and louder "pings," the normal daily noise will hurt more (putting dishes away, car horns, etc), pure tones like beeps from the microwave will be all distorted, voices on the phone will be garbled, and I'll notice I can't hear the swish of clothes as much -- and that will last for weeks. To me that says I'm further damaging something. Similar things happen if I play music with other completely acoustic musicians, or if I have a conversation with a single loud-talker in a closed in environment, or other scenarios that, to anyone else that I've met so far, shouldn't be too loud. I'm talking maybe 65-75 db tops, definitely not what is conventionally a damage zone.

      I've been reading through the forums and come across others who describe their tinnitus getting worse in response to certain "normal" sounds -- rain or fans or sirens in the distance for example. Seems the term for this is "reactive tinnitus"? Maybe I didn't read enough yet, but so far it seems that phenomenon is unrelated to volume, and each person has specific sounds that trigger them. So I'm not sure if it's the same as what happens to me? And significantly, those I've come across did not seem to associate it with further damage, just a temporary change. Hard to know the difference for sure, but it certainly seems like I'm doing damage.

      I also came across another term on this forum -- "kindling" -- is that the same as what I'm describing?

      Anyway, I'm hoping to find others who have something similar.

      Since this is a "Introduce Yourself" post, here's more about my story:

      When I was in high school, I played in a rock band. We were stupid, there's no way around it. We played way too loud, often in a small concrete garage, and I seldom wore any protection. The nights after we played, my head would hurt and my ears would ring, but it would eventually always go away and I somehow convinced myself that it always would, even though I'd heard plenty of public service announcements warning of the dangers. We thought we were rock and roll. If I ever get a chance at a time machine, I won't go see the dinosaurs or the building of Rome, I'd go back and slap some sense into the stupid teenage me.

      Still, my lasting hearing issues didn't start while I was in the band, but a couple years later, a full day after I went to a not-particularly-loud concert, and it hit me hard. I thought the ringing was unbearable, but worse was the fear that I was going deaf. I went to audiologists and ENTs, and was told there really wasn't much that could be done to make things better. I started having problems with depression and anxiety.

      I soon realized that I could make things worse by exposure to even moderately loud noises, and slowly got used to making sure I protected myself in any situation where moderately loud noises could possibly occur. I discovered how many different kinds of earplugs there are, and became adept at switching between them based on what environment I was in. For the last 24 years, my two back pockets always have an assortment of ear plugs. I have favorite kinds for driving, for playing acoustic instruments by myself, for playing with others, for walking near busy roads, etc. I've found that with a little forethought and flexibility, I can do most anything I like, without the hearing issues preventing me from living a happy and fulfilled life.

      There are some things I've given up of course. I once thought maybe I'd have a career in the music business, maybe as a recording engineer or sound guy. OK, I realized that's out. Even at low volume, I start to get "ear fatigue" too soon to do it 8 hours a day. I find it hard to hear everything that people say in crowded environments. So, it's annoying, but really no big deal compared to all the fears I had those first few months /years.

      So that started 24 years ago. Over the decades I got more or less completely used to the condition. And if anything, I think it was slowly getting better.

      About 10 years ago, I thought maybe there were new technologies or medical breakthroughs, so went to more audiologists and ENTs. For the most part, they were not interested in the specifics of my symptoms, or in trying very hard to find out whether there was any physical condition that might be exacerbating the symptoms, with the exception of one who referred me to a doctor at Johns Hopkins who specialized in Superior Canal Dehiscence Syndrome. He did some tests, however, and to his credit, quickly determined I did not have that condition. Unfortunately, that particular syndrome seemed to be his narrow field of expertise, and he could not even refer me to any other experts that could help me explore any other possibilities. So I went back to my normal life, managing the condition for another 10 years.

      Then, last summer, a day after a plane ride during which I listened to music through in-ear buds (I thought I was carefully keeping the volume low), my symptoms suddenly got markedly worse. During the plane ride back, I didn't listen to any music, but they got worse again, this time I think from wax blockage from the air pressure changes. They've stayed more or less at that heightened level until last Tuesday, when while resting after shoveling the snow, they got worse than they've ever been. There's a noticeable drop in hearing mid to high frequencies, the ringing is probably 5-10 times louder than it was, and more and more sounds sound distorted (my God, everything beeps in the modern world now, and those beeps are suddenly an alien-sounding cacophony). It's been that way since last Tuesday, although perhaps today is a little better.

      So I'm worried, but I've been through this before, and honestly I tell myself the last 24 years have been a gift that back then I didn't think I would get. I've seen enough of the world now to know that regardless of whether I think something is fair to me or not, other people have gotten a much worse deal than I have. And more than that, I know that as much as music has been so core to my life so far, and as much as I would be terribly sad about losing it, life is so much bigger than what we know. Music is only one part of it. In any direction I look, there's more than can be experienced in anyone's lifetime. I have kids now, and that has definitely blown open my perspective.

      Life goes on, and I'm determined to find a way to live it fully no matter what.
    2. billie48

      billie48 Member Benefactor Ambassador Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      not sure
      Welcome to the forum. You have a good attitude there by not letting the T bully ruin your life by thinking this way. I call this 'minimizing tinnitus', as a strategy to help the brain not greeting too stressful and anxious about T. Having an attitude of 'flow' will definitely help us because without our fearful resistance, T can't generate the negative emotions which it feeds on to perpetuate the suffering. If we persist on this line of thinking, sooner of later, the brain gets the message that T is not an end game, be it an irritation. Without being considered a threat, T will lose its grip on our emotions as the brain just learn to fade it out from our consciousness when we are busy with enjoying life. That is the beginning of habituation. Keep up the positive thinking. Things will get better. All the best. God bless.

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