New to Tinnitus Caused by Neomycin/Polymyxin B/Hydrocortisone Ear Drops — Seeking Support

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself' started by hopingtoheal, Jan 28, 2021.

    1. hopingtoheal

      hopingtoheal Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      01/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Ototoxic medication (neomycin)
      Hi everyone.

      I've had constant and acute tinnitus for the last ten days, and have been suffering from a lot of physical and emotional distress, sleepless nights, difficulty focusing, depression. I came across this forum, and am hoping to find some support and comfort in connecting with other people who have experience with this awful issue. I hope you'll forgive me while I share more details of the situation—apologies in advance, it's a bit long:

      How it started: I've been surfing a lot over the last two or three months, and began experiencing some pain and discomfort in my ears. As a teenager I developed swimmer's ear from surfing, went to a clinic, was prescribed an antibiotic ear drop, and the swimmer's ear cleared up quickly. No big deal. So this time around, thinking I had the same issue, I reached out to my cousin, who's a nurse practitioner, and asked her for a prescription. She prescribed ear drops, I took them for two days, then woke up on the third day with awful, super-high-pitched ringing in both ears. The ringing has continued, non-stop, ever since.

      The prescription was for Neomycin and Polymyxin B sulfates and Hydrocortisone. I did some research after the ringing started and learned, to my shock and horror and rage, that Neomycin is highly ototoxic. Before this happened, I had never heard of ototoxicity, and it had absolutely never occurred to me a prescription medication could cause such intense and possibly permanent damage, pain, and suffering. My relationship with medicine and doctors has always been simple—feel bad symptoms, see doctor, follow recommended treatment, feel better shortly afterwards. This is the first time a medical professional's recommendation has caused so much suffering.

      I never imagined I wouldn't be able to experience quiet, or silence. Perhaps the worst part is that I absolutely LOVE listening to music. The tinnitus makes it really difficult to enjoy that. The thought of never being able to enjoy music in the same way just shatters my heart. I'm only 35, and the thought of having to live with this for decades is also hard to accept.

      My feelings on the situation change a lot. Some days I'm furious at myself for not just going to a clinic to have the ears checked before taking drops. Some days I'm furious that an ear drop with such awful, permanent effects would ever be created or prescribed. Some days I'm able to distract myself and push through it. Most days I'm a wreck. I wish I could rewind the clock two weeks and just GO TO A CLINIC instead of asking for a prescription, or DON'T TAKE THE DAMN DROPS. But I can't. Part of me hopes that this will not be permanent, but part of me thinks I should assume the worst and focus on how I can cope with it. The suffering I'm experiencing feels like such a massive punishment for what feels like a simple, innocent mistake.

      The other challenge for me is that I've suffered from chronic and treatment-resistant depression for the last fifteen years. Long before I ever imagined that I could have this tinnitus, I have struggled with unrelenting wishes for death, passive suicidal ideation (but no actual attempts), feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, little enthusiasm for life. I've struggled to grow professionally, romantically, personally. I've always had to fight just to hang on, and I'm afraid that this suffering will eventually push me over the edge. I'm currently unemployed and single, and was just starting to do some productive work with a good therapist on moving past those things. And now the tinnitus has happened because of a stupid mistake, and it feels like an overwhelming setback.

      I should also add that I am still gathering information and seeking treatment. I had an audiogram yesterday—my eardrum and canal appear healthy and my hearing is good overall (though I think the tinnitus is making me miss some of the high range). The audiologist was dismayed when I said I'd taken Neomycin. I'm having a follow-up appointment with an ENT tomorrow. The pressure and discomfort I originally had remains, though that's far less painful than the tinnitus.

      Anyway, thank you for reading this far. I would welcome any support, encouragement, resources, or wisdom you may like to share.

      Rich
       
      • Hug Hug x 4
    2. bbwuey

      bbwuey Member

      Location:
      Illinois
      Tinnitus Since:
      2014/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      noise/antibiotics
      I'm in a real similar situation where one dose of antibiotics (Azithromycin) caused my tinnitus to spike pretty hard! It's been a bit over three weeks and sometimes I feel like it's going down but I can never tell, and I have no idea what to expect. Definitely sucks since I'm only 21, in college as a person who really enjoys the bars, concerts and parties but it sucks to think that I might have to avoid all those if it doesn't go back to before. It's been hard to accept, especially since an audiologist won't see me until mid February and they might not be able to help much either. It's been rough haha.
       
      • Hug Hug x 1
    3. Bette1969
      Alone

      Bette1969 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      January 2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Traveling a long way in Taxi with window open next to me.
      Hello Rich,

      When I read your honest and raw post I felt many things.

      But the first thing I think is that it has only been ten days. I say this because I am on a very similar timeline to you and I also have been having some dark thoughts and am full of regret/fear/remorse etc.
      But I can't seem to say to myself try to remain calm it has only been less than 2 weeks yet it is one of the first things I think when I read your words...

      However I completely empathise with your panic and anxiety.
      I am using CBD oil and Magnesium and the masking sound just under the tinnitus playing through the night.

      Can you speak to your therapist regularly still?

      B
       
      • Hug Hug x 1
    4. GregCA
      Jaded

      GregCA Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2016
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Otosclerosis
      Do you have a perforated ear drum?
       
    5. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      hopingtoheal

      hopingtoheal Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      01/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Ototoxic medication (neomycin)
      I'm so, so, sorry to hear that you're experiencing something similar. I know what you mean about enjoying bars, concerts, and parties, and man to have a hearing issue like this at 21 must be really hard. Is there any way you can see an audiologist or ENT sooner than mid-February? Maybe you could ask around, or if your college's health center or insurance provider could help you find some other doctors to look? Hoping that the spike fades soon for you.
       
    6. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      hopingtoheal

      hopingtoheal Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      01/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Ototoxic medication (neomycin)
      Hi Bette1969—thank you for this thoughtful note. I think you're right when you say it may be too soon to worry about permanent damage. I try to keep that in perspective, though like you I find it really hard not to dwell on the possibility of permanence. I did only use the drops for 2-3 days, maybe 4-6 applications total. So maybe my system can recover from that lower amount of toxicity. There are times when I notice it a little less in my left ear.

      I found your self-introduction thread and was so happy to read that you're already seeing some improvement. It sounds like yours was possibly caused by the combination of the cold and the noise. Hoping that it improves for you soon, it sounds like your body may already be making great progress towards healing.

      I will look into the CBD oil and magnesium for sleep. I only slept about 3 hours last night, which was rough. And yes, I do video calls with my therapist at least once a week, often twice. So have that support, as well as from friends and family. Grateful for that.
       
      • Agree Agree x 1
    7. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      hopingtoheal

      hopingtoheal Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      01/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Ototoxic medication (neomycin)
      Hi GregCA, the audiologist examined my ears and found no evidence of a perforated ear drum, which is good. My ear drum tested well in the audiogram. I'll ask the ENT about it tomorrow, hope to get more information then.
       
    8. bbwuey

      bbwuey Member

      Location:
      Illinois
      Tinnitus Since:
      2014/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      noise/antibiotics
      I just called an audiologist at a hospital near my school but I didn’t think to look past that, but I’ll give it a shot. Here’s to having this tinnitus lower for both of us so we can relax again haha, even if its really rough right now.
       
      • Hug Hug x 1
    9. twa
      Busy

      twa Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Location:
      US
      Tinnitus Since:
      2017- mild /Sept. 2020-moderate
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      meds/acoustic trauma
      I'm so very sorry you are going through this. I think we all wish we could turn back time in regards to our tinnitus. If we had only done this or that, but truthfully it was probably a combination of things that caused our tinnitus. I encourage you to read the success stories. Some members have posted collections of recoveries that are inspiring. There are other members who have recovered and come back to help and give guidance. Some great ones are JJflyman, Tom Cnyc and Jason C. Take care of yourself, it will get better.

      twa :)
       
      • Hug Hug x 1
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    10. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      hopingtoheal

      hopingtoheal Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      01/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Ototoxic medication (neomycin)
      Thank you for the positivity encouragement twa :)
      Any leads on an audiologist bbwuey? I hope your tinnitus is subsiding for you a bit.

      Quick update: I visited an audiologist and and ENT last week in two separate visits. My test results came back good—ear canals look healthy, eardrum healthy and intact, my hearing is in good shape. There was some low pressure buildup in the inner ear, but within a normal range. The audiologist was dismayed that I'd used Neomycin drops. The ENT, on the other hand, insisted that there is no way the Neomycin drops would have caused the tinnitus. Since there's some low pressure—and that low pressure got somewhat more intense between the two visits—he thinks I have some Eustachian tube dysfunction, and suggested that I try to resolve that with Flonase, Neti Pot, and Sudafed to reduce any congestion. (I learned later that he's actually a surgeon specializing in otolaryngology, so maybe he's not the best guy to ask?) He was also dismissive of his audiologist's perspective on the Neomycin, which was awkward.

      Anyway, the tinnitus persists. I've been using the Flonase and Neti Pot, I think the pressure in the ears is subsiding a bit, though the doctor said it could take a few weeks to sort itself out. The possibility that reducing the pressure will reduce the tinnitus has me feeling hopeful. I am not as intensely stressed about the tinnitus, so my experience of it is less intense. I still hear it, it's always there, but it doesn't bother me as much, so I don't notice it as much. Still hoping it will mostly resolve itself in a few weeks.

      Anybody think it would be a good idea for me to get a second opinion from a different ENT, since the doc's focus is in surgery and maybe not as experienced with tinnitus?
       
    11. GregCA
      Jaded

      GregCA Member Benefactor Hall of Fame

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2016
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Otosclerosis
      You probably mean the middle ear. We don't measure inner ear pressure at a doctor's appointment.
      I would also be surprised if the Neomycin drops had any ototoxic effect since your ear drum is intact and that, consequently, there is no path for the antibiotic to cross from the outer ear (where you put them) to the middle ear (where it can, in theory, travel to your inner ear if you are really unlucky).
      I'd definitely get another opinion if I were in your shoes. Not because this doctor focuses on surgery (many ENTs do), but because I like to have multiple data points before I form an opinion, and this is important. In fact, I'd probably go to a couple more, and if there is no consensus across the 3 doctors, I'd probably go fish for more data to break ties.
       
      • Helpful Helpful x 1
    12. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      hopingtoheal

      hopingtoheal Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      01/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Ototoxic medication (neomycin)
      Thanks for this GregCA! Really appreciate your thoughts here.
      You're right—thanks for clarifying.
      This is encouraging to hear. I'm hopeful that the tinnitus is caused by some Eustachian tube dysfunction and, as that dysfunction is resolved, will also diminish in time.
      Great point. I've gotten some other referrals from family and friends, so will set up some additional appointments to collect more data as you suggest.
       
    13. Craig Oldfield

      Craig Oldfield Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      02/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Neomycin (Otomize spray)
      Hi Rich - I feel your emotional pain. I have gone through the same thing. I actually went to an ENT specialist because I had itchy ears. My right a lot more so than my left. Nothing major at all. No pain, no discharge. I thought Id be given some eardrops and would resolve the itch. Well the specialist gave me an ear spray called Otomize (contains Neomycin). Almost immediately I began getting tinnitus. It gradually got worse over4 days at which point I stopped taking and also did my research. Like you I was totally horrified at what I read about Neomycin and couldn't believe it had been prescribed to me, particularly given I didn't have "swimmers ear".

      The ENT consultant told me that the spray isn't the culprit, but seriously, there is no other explanation. I'm 46 and never experienced tinnitus and started hearing the high pitched sounds on day 1 of taking it. He also explained that it cannot get through the eardrum to the inner ear without a perforation, which I have been assured I don't have. A hearing test has picked up that I haven't lost any hearing of note, so I suspect that the spray has triggered a reaction in my outer ear, perhaps getting into the bloodstream via abrasions. Who knows, but the association is clear as far as I'm concerned.

      Like you I was in fight or flight mode and sunk into depression and anxiety for around a week, however in week 2 I shifted my attitude. I decided to carry on with life i.e. carry on with work, carry on with exercise etc etc. I moved to a point of acceptance and I stopped focusing on the tinnitus. This has helped me enormously. The tinnitus spikes if you worry about it and are anxious. The tinnitus is still there for me (I've had it for about 2 weeks) but I now rarely notice it, particularly when there are other noises around me. From what I can make out, getting on with life and stopping focusing on the sound is likely what will enable it to fade away in time, because your brain is being trained to filter it out because it realises the sound is not relevant.

      I'm really intrigued though how it is now going for you? Particularly given that it's a few weeks since your last post and I am a few weeks behind you in terms of my experience of using the ear drops / spray and the resulting tinnitus.

      Thanks,
      Craig
       
      • Hug Hug x 1
    14. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      hopingtoheal

      hopingtoheal Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      01/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Ototoxic medication (neomycin)
      Hi Craig,

      Thanks so much for reaching out! Hearing about your experience is really validating actually. I've been examined by two ENTs now, and both insist that the possibility of the Neomycin drops causing tinnitus is extremely unlikely, citing my intact ear drums. But like you, I can't imagine any other cause for the tinnitus. As you say, the association seems very clear: before Neomycin, no tinnitus; after Neomycin, clear tinnitus. (The first audiologist who tested my hearing said that the ear drum is a blood barrier—that there are blood vessels passing through it—so it seems likely that the Neomycin entered the bloodstream there and caused the ototoxicity. Best theory I have.)

      But two months in, my experience is similar to yours. I still have the tinnitus, but I rarely notice it unless I'm reminded of it for some reason, and even then it's not particularly loud or unbearable. It isn't a big issue for me any more—thank goodness. That fight or flight phase was AWFUL. But when both ENTs said the tinnitus would resolve itself—or I'd habituate to it—within 3-6 months, I was able to shift my mindset and accept there was nothing I could really do to fix the situation, and that there was a good chance it would get better in time. That really relieved my stress and anxiety about it, and I started getting used to it. My situation is very livable now, and may improve even more as more time goes by.

      I'm very happy to hear that you have already been able to achieve an improvement by shifting your mindset too, Craig. This is a difficult thing and I'm glad you're moving past it and living your life on your terms. I think that the situation will only continue to improve in time.

      Thanks again for reaching out, it was really nice to get your post!

      Rich
       
      • Hug Hug x 1
    15. kuromi
      Cheerful

      kuromi Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      16/11/20
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      outer ear infection
      Our stories are very similar, with slight differences here and there. Back in early November last year, I first noticed the ringing in my dorm room and at first. After going to the doctors, I was diagnosed with a minor ear infection and received treatment that eventually made the tinnitus start to fade. In the initial stages, it caused me extreme panic and the fight-or-flight response was immense. I could barely focus on anything else, let alone manage tinnitus and the demands of my workload. But as you've said, with time, I've seen improvements.

      I'm four months in now (roughly 15 weeks from onset) and I can confidently say that I'm at a similar situation where even though my tinnitus is still present, I find I'm able to live my life comfortably alongside it. I still do feel anxiety about my situation every so often, but I'm learning to put those thoughts aside and look to the future with the hope I'll heal entirely.

      Take heart, Rich!
       
      • Like Like x 1
    16. d3n

      d3n Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      02/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Suspected Prescribed Neomycin Eardops
      Hi Rich!

      I saw your post and I'm feeling optimistic, especially when I acquired tinnitus through the same exact situation, so thank you for writing this.

      I'm wondering how you're doing at the moment, has your tinnitus improved?

      My most recent ENT said mine will go away in a couple of weeks and I'm not seeing much improvement there (there might be a little, but since the ringing persists, it's not easy to objectively measure the volume).
       
    17. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      hopingtoheal

      hopingtoheal Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      01/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Ototoxic medication (neomycin)
      Hi d3n, it's nice to hear from you. I'm so sorry to hear that you acquired tinnitus this way. It's a really stressful, uncomfortable place to be early on, and it's frustrating that doctors continue to prescribe this medication and cause this problem for people. (We could talk at length about why that happens, but it's ultimately not really helpful in terms of making peace with the situation we're in.)

      I'm almost 10 months in to my tinnitus now, and my situation hasn't really changed since my last post in March. I still have the tinnitus. The majority of the time, I don't notice it, and it doesn't cause me any real distress or distraction. Sometimes I'm aware of it for a few moments/minutes, and forget about it shortly thereafter. It's not very loud or distracting. Every once in a while, I am reminded of it and feel annoyed/sad/frustrated about the situation, but that usually doesn't last long.

      I often find myself thinking of it as a kind of canary in the coal mine, an alarm system that makes noises at me if I'm feeling stressed, or tired, or hungry, etc. It lets me know when I need to take better care of myself. That mentality has been a positive reframe for me! I hope that mindset, or something similar, might find its way to you at some point as a way of making the best of a frustrating situation.

      I do continue to sleep with a white noise machine at night, mostly out of habit at this point. I have slept without one, and haven't experienced much difficulty falling asleep in those cases.

      Anyway, let me know if you have any further questions. I am hopeful that your ENT is right and that the tinnitus will go away completely! But know that, if that doesn't end up being the case, there is a very good possibility that you will adjust and will be unaware of the problem most of the time :) Keep us posted on your progress!

      Best,
      Rich
       
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