My Tinnitus Journey: I First Noticed It When I Was Undergoing SCUBA Training

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself' started by HauntedComputer, Dec 18, 2022.

    1. HauntedComputer

      HauntedComputer Member Benefactor

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      I'm new and since my tinnitus has rebounded a bit, I got interested in reading and learning more after largely being habituated for years. I'm 60 and in good health overall. Here's my journey if there is anything helpful for anyone.

      I first noticed tinnitus in 2014 when I was undergoing SCUBA training. I'd often had trouble with my ears/sinuses as a child, and when I got a cold even as an adult my ears would often be clogged for a week or two, so I suspect I have some flawed Eustachian tube construction, either naturally or through early ear infections. The ENT basically said hearing aids were the only option. I did have some moderate hearing loss due to playing in rock bands, shooting guns, power equipment, etc. but I didn't suffer any real-world problems with hearing loss, though I did have hyperacusis, too. My tone is high-pitched crickets/teakettle. I'd put my baseline tinnitus at around 3/10 at this time--bearable, but it could be annoying at times.

      I didn't explore any specific treatments other than "trying to ignore it," although at one point around 2017 or so I went to a tinnitus specialist. I'd been tracking my diet, etc. to see what caused any fluctuations or reductions in tinnitus and never noticed a real trend (aside from noise exposure, caffeine, etc.). She did offer a type of noise generator/CBT type device that seemed a bit awkward so I skipped it, but mostly she said I'd be better off just stop paying so much attention to it. So I did.

      I started meditating with the tinnitus as the mantra, turning it into a neutral/positive sound. This seems counter-intuitive but for me the anxiety and obsession is the biggest challenge. I basically accepted that it wasn't causing physical pain and was just a background noise--"the sound of me." Eventually my level dropped to 1 to 2/10 and was not a major factor in my life, though I carefully protected myself against noise exposure. I could even play guitar again if I didn't overdo it.

      About two months ago, I got Eustachian Tube Dysfunction, likely from allergies although I had no symptoms besides very clogged ears. A trip to urgent care, Neo-Synephrine, another doctor trip, Nasacort, two visits to ENT, and the stuffiness went away but the tinnitus was really bad, getting up to 6-8/10, making it hard to sleep, and sometimes it was just hanging on by my fingernails. I tried dietary changes (gluten and dairy free) for a few weeks with no dramatic change.

      It is easing a bit over time, and because of my previous experience I am hopeful it gets better and that I will habituate again. Right now I am almost constantly aware of it even while I am engaged in something else. I see a specialist at university in January for an evaluation and complete testing (I've never had CTs or MRIs so I don't know if there is an underlying physical problem, but the ENT says I have no pressure or fluid behind eardrums.) I also get acupuncture focusing on sinuses and keeping my ears as clear as possible and I use saline spray/Neti pot a few times a day.

      The ENT did offer some moonshot therapies like Neurontin and Prednisone but the odds/risk factors weren't appealing to me. He said two patients reported tinnitus reduction with CBD oil, which I often take for sleep but haven't noticed any effect on tinnitus (my tinnitus often gets worse at night, although not always). He also suggested CBT which seems like a good approach for me.

      Based on what I'm reading and the outcome of the evaluation, I am likely to try a mix of CBT and maybe low-level masking. Meditation seems to help quite a bit, which may be more due to stress reduction than anything. Tinnitus is something I have, but not who I am. If tinnitus is largely in the mind, then treating my mind kindly seems, well, a no-brainer.

      Good luck on your own journey.
      • Hug Hug x 1
    2. billie48

      billie48 Member Benefactor Ambassador Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      not sure
      Welcome to the forum. Your positive attitude will help you get better. I like your attitude. Yes, CBT, even on a self help mode, has helped me a lot and many others have also been benefited. Worth trying it. Good luck. God bless.
      • Agree Agree x 1
    3. AUTHOR

      HauntedComputer Member Benefactor

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Follow-up after visiting the tinnitus clinic at a state university.

      The biggest help was getting prescribed a low-dose SSRI (generic Lexapro) at the beginning of the year. Reducing generalized anxiety along with the anxiety around the tinnitus has done wonders, along with some natural habituation/acceptance. I also started counseling around PTSD/anxiety and fortunately (for me, not for them) my regular doctor and my counselor both have tinnitus and understand it, whereas I get the impression my ENTs and this specialist don't have it and therefore can understand it only theoretically. Kind of like how only alcoholics can understand alcoholism.

      I did an expanded range of audiograms beyond what the ENTs do, and showed pretty much what I already knew -- high frequency hearing loss and sound sensitivity. The suggested treatment was to get hearing aids with some masking/augmentation apps with the goal of expanding my hearing-attention and gradually decreasing my sensitivity. I may go this route, but my hearing has not declined measurably since 2014 when first tested, so hearing loss doesn't seem to be the reason for the recent increase and so far I have no real-world hearing problems -- I can hear conversations and sibilants just fine, the problem is too much noise is too much, so boosting my sensitivity to sound doesn't sound appealing. There wasn't any mention of any type of medical cause or treatment -- I'm not sure if the conclusion was already reached before the tests ("We have one tool and it's hearing aids, therefore you need hearing aids") or if I'm being hard-headed and I'm no different than the millions of other people who have tinnitus and hearing aids.

      I am in a much better place with less anxiety. I am able to engage in a couple of pleasures I'd given up in the fall -- getting a tiny bit high and playing guitar and recording. I've become a little less protective of my ears in ordinary situations, although I always carry earplugs and often have protector muffs near my computer for when the dog barks or the wife grinds her espressos. As much intellectual curiosity as I have about tinnitus, the vast array of experiences people have with it, and the seeming lack of any medical knowledge about it, I seem to do better when I don't "work on it." Even coming to the forum reminds me of it and ramps up my ringing, unfortunately, so it's probably a kind of subliminal stress trigger.

      In short, for me the best step has been managing my anxiety/reaction around tinnitus. I know that sounds useless to those really suffering. However, I've gone from good days/not-so-good days to mostly good days. My acupuncturist has been investigating some electro-acupuncture stimulation for tinnitus so I may give that a try. In the meantime, I'm using more pink noise augmentation at bedtime and when I'm around the computer, trying to get up to two hours a day. Stay healthy and seek peace wherever you can.

      P.S. One positive from the clinic visit is I got some Phonatek earplugs -- they reduce overall sound level but have a kind of filter that keeps the pitches and tones consistent. For musicians, music lovers, and people who want sound that's not unnaturally and unevenly muffled at different frequencies might want to give them a try. They allow me to play a lot longer than I could before. They were $25.
      • Like Like x 2
      • Hug Hug x 1

Share This Page