Now in a Better Place — Tinnitus and Ear Fullness from Acoustic Trauma (Headphones)

Discussion in 'Success Stories' started by SevDawg, Oct 4, 2021.

    1. SevDawg

      SevDawg Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Acoustic Trauma (Headphone)
      Hey everybody,

      I used to frequent Tinnitus Talk back when I had my injury in late March of this year. This forum and all of the stories I read helped give me strength to get through this really dark period in my life. I promised myself that I would share my story when I felt like I was in a better place. My only hope is that I can help reach other people who are suffering and going through the same things I went through.

      How it happened: I had an incident at work on March 31st, 2021. I was performing audio testing on a product with studio monitoring headphones on my left ear when there was a malfunction with the signal generator. I ended up getting blasted with a max output tone (around 1 kHz) for around 1 second before I threw the headphones across the room. It was the loudest thing I have ever heard in my life.

      Immediately following the incident I was shocked at what happened. I remember having extreme ear fullness and tension the very next day. I think those were the only symptoms at the time. I couldn't get in to see my PCP quick enough due to COVID-19 backlog, so it took weeks before I could see a doctor. I figured that the fullness would resolve within days, or at most a couple weeks. I was wrong.

      My PCP examined my ear and found no damage. I was hoping it was a perforated ear drum, at least then I would have had an explanation for all the symptoms I was experiencing. I was referred to see an ENT but the appointment was a couple months out (again, thanks COVID-19). I wasn't offered steroids like some of the users here, though I wish I could have tried them at the time. Though it may have been too late to have any meaningful effect.

      I'm waiting for my ENT appointment and I'm panicking. I feel like no one can help me and give me answers. Everyday it feels like my condition is getting worse. I ended up having a brutal panic attack one night (~6 weeks after the injury) when I started to hear ringing in my left ear. I tried everything to calm myself down: hot bath, holding ice cubes, playing video games... Hell, I even went for a drive! But the ringing followed me everywhere, and it didn't stop. This lasted for hours until I eventually collapsed on my couch. I remember thinking that my life, as I knew it, was over. How could I be so stupid? All it took was 1 second to ruin everything.

      The next day was hard. I didn't sleep at all. The ringing was so loud that I could hear it over everything except the shower. Anyone familiar with tinnitus knows how difficult the first few days are. Oddly enough, I made it through that day and awoke to silence in the early morning. I didn't hear a thing that whole day. But the victory was short lived as it returned with a vengeance the next day.

      From this point on the ringing never stopped. It took several weeks for the volume to diminish to the point where I could sleep with the assistance of white noise. There are several high pitched "tinnitus cure" videos on YouTube that I used religiously at night to help make the T disappear, at least enough so I could relax and get some sleep.

      I also battled with TTTS/hyperacusis after the panic attack. Doing dishes would physically hurt my ears, cooking was too loud. If I was exposed to semi loud sounds for any duration my ears would get that fullness again. Like most users, I had a few setbacks over the ~6 months since my injury. I developed this burning pain and muscle tension on the left side of my face from that travelled down the left side of my neck. It would trigger whenever my left ear would get fatigued from noise. Recovery felt like 3 steps forward and 2 steps back.

      What worked for me: obviously resting the ear as much as possible. I stopped using earbuds and headphones following the injury. I picked up some silicone ear plugs that I wore almost all the time at first. I would wear it when I drove, at the gym, noisy places at work. It really helped, though I became too reliant on it. Eventually as my ear healed I stopped using the ear plugs and now I carry them with me everywhere I go, just in case. As far as supplementation, I take Magnesium glycinate regularly. I'm not sure if it has an impact on tinnitus or the ear recovery, but it helps me relax a bit at night and it was worth trying anything to help with the recovery process. I also took Melatonin for a couple weeks after the onset of tinnitus to help with sleep.

      I always sleep with white noise, even before the injury. I sleep with either rain sounds or this summer night noise (crickets chirping). I try to set the volume as low as possible to help with the habituation process. Consistent sleep schedule is key. Ears are super slow to show changes and you need as much rest as possible to heal.

      But you know what really helped the most? Time. It just takes time.

      BTW, my visit to the ENT was useless. My audiogram results came back normal for both ears. The tympanometry revealed no issues. The ENT's advice was to stop using ear plugs, which in my opinion was not terrible advice. Maybe just misguided. I think I gradually needed to ween myself off of hearing protection as my ear healed, so it could accept more sound and my TTTS/hyperacusis symptoms would not trigger as easily. I remember the doctor saying that I dodged a bullet... I couldn't agree more; it could have been a lot worse.

      Where I'm at now: I'm just over 6 months from the date of my injury. My TTTS/hyperacusis is gone. The only symptom left is the tinnitus, which has gotten a lot quieter over the months. I wake up most mornings and can't even hear it. As I'm typing this it's still there, but it has actually gotten quieter. I don't believe it's just habituation. I hope it continues to fade.

      I'm living a mostly normal life right now. I'm not ruminating on the tinnitus as much anymore. It might bother me just a few times a day instead of every waking second. I went on a date the other day. If you told me that I'd be going on dates now 3 months ago I wouldn't believe you. It was at a brewery and we were seated next to some moderately loud music. No ear plugs needed. It didn't illicit the same kind of stress response that it used to. Concerts and other very loud venues, however, are out of discussion for the time being.

      Overall, I feel like I'm in a much better place now. I still have a long road ahead of me for a full recovery and I'm taking it day by day. I hope that my story helps someone else, like it did for me in my time of need. I know how dark and terrifying this is. Remember to be extra kind to yourself during this time. Try not to get too caught up reading all of the really bad cases you might see here. Many people see improvements, and you likely will, too.

      -Sev
       
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    2. Brandon Wong

      Brandon Wong Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      08/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud Noise Exposure
      Thank you for your story. I’m in a similar position, only that I make music for a living. I might need to change my life around to prevent any more damage.

      Did you have any tinnitus fluctuations? My high pitch tinnitus from left ear seems to have moved to the middle and right ear. So far it hasn’t come down in volume after 2 months. It just gradually got a little louder each week. Still at a 2-3/10.
       
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    3. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      SevDawg

      SevDawg Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Acoustic Trauma (Headphone)
      Hey Brandon,

      I play guitar and one of the hardest things I had to do was put it down for a couple months in the early stages of my injury. Gradually I was able to play at lower volumes with ear plugs in and I slowly increased my playing time and volume over the months. I still don't play loud, but I've worked back up to the volume I used to play in my apartment before the injury. It doesn't seem to fatigue my left ear like it used to.

      My high pitched T fluctuated a lot in the early stages. I think that when my left ear was exposed to too much noise it would get fatigued and the ringing would get much louder. But it usually returned to baseline the next morning. That still happens today but the volume change is much more subtle. I was very careful about noise exposure, and I could usually feel when my ear has had enough.

      I read about your injury, it's very similar to the way I was injured. 2 months in is still very early in the recovery process. My left ear felt like it was getting worse every day for about 3 months until I started slowly seeing improvements. The best thing you can do is protect your ear, let it rest, and then slowly reintroduce music back into your life. Or, if you can make music with ear plugs in and play at a lower volume that doesn't make your condition worse, that could be an option, too!

      -Sev
       
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    4. Brandon Wong

      Brandon Wong Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      08/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud Noise Exposure
      Thanks Sev, I'm just very worried of it going up a hill and never stopping. I'll be patient and keep positive thoughts.
       
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    5. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      SevDawg

      SevDawg Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Acoustic Trauma (Headphone)
      Hey Brandon,

      Take it day by day and stay positive, man. Keep protecting your ears and I'm sure you'll see improvement soon.

      -Sev
       
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    6. Nathaniel Teposo
      Anime

      Nathaniel Teposo Member

      Location:
      Manila, Philippine
      Tinnitus Since:
      January 1, 2014
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise induced trauma
      Thanks for sharing this wonderful improvement that has happened to you.
       
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    7. SaraK18

      SaraK18 Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      8/2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Sound exposure
      Thanks for sharing your story Sev. I have been in a similar position. There are similarities with our injuries. It's really awesome you are able to go on dates and enjoy some of the simple things again. It's inspiring!
       
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    8. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      SevDawg

      SevDawg Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Acoustic Trauma (Headphone)
      Thank you, Sara!

      This has really been a life changing experience. There is so much in life that I no longer take for granted.

      The simple things are what really matter to me these days.

      -Sev
       
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    9. Matchbox
      Wishful

      Matchbox Member

      Location:
      BC Canada
      Tinnitus Since:
      August 2020
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Noise Induced, Prednisone (drones), Barotrauma (distortions)
      You're very lucky if you don't hear it in the morning. You were never chronic to begin with.
       
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    10. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      SevDawg

      SevDawg Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Acoustic Trauma (Headphone)
      Hey Matchbox,

      I do consider myself lucky. To clarify, I can still hear it in the morning if I choose to focus on it, but work has picked up again and I've been keeping busy so I don't really have the opportunity to ruminate on it. It's now a low enough volume in the morning that it can mostly be ignored. It does increase in volume as the day progresses, though. Who knows, this could very well be permanent damage, but I'm hopeful that it continues to improve and that the T keeps fading.

      -Sev
       
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    11. Beep Boop Bop
      Sad

      Beep Boop Bop Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      05/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Acoustic Shock
      Hi,
      Thanks for sharing. I got my tinnitus around the same time, and in exactly the same fashion. It was a ~95 dB accidental blast through headphones for one second. Your remark that all it took was a second to ruin everything really resonates. It sounds like you've been though a lot since onset in terms of your symptoms. I only had 3 weeks of ear fullness, and later TTTS, but I'm pretty sure that's purely anxiety induced. I'm glad to hear you are getting better physically and mentally though. I'm still in a very dark place with anxiety, depression and phonophobia, and am struggling to cope.

      Can I ask how you got past feeling the need to wear earplugs everywhere? Every time I try to go without plugs I can't relax because I'm always focused on what the next surprise loud sound could be.
       
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    12. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      SevDawg

      SevDawg Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Acoustic Trauma (Headphone)
      Hey Beep Boop Bop, thank you for sharing and I appreciate your question. I know exactly what you're going through right now.

      It took me around 5 months to ween myself off of hearing protection (from April to September). Initially I wore an ear plug in my left ear pretty much all the time except when I was chilling at home and watching TV at a low volume or when I was working quietly at my desk.

      We're presented with an obvious challenge. On one hand we want to protect as much as possible because it's comfortable and makes us feel safe. We want to protect our ears and let them heal. On the other hand, your ears will only end up more sensitive to noise if you overuse hearing protection. If you overuse, you might find that your TTTS symptoms trigger when exposed to sounds that you used to be able to tolerate. In my experience, wearing hearing protection a lot at first was the right decision. Like you, I was scared of noise and I struggled to get through my day, so the hearing protection helped. I also wanted to give my ear the best chance for recovery.

      I'm wondering if you are able to sense when your ears are getting fatigued? I would feel that tension and pressure start to build in my ear when it was getting fatigued, and that was the point when I knew I needed to back off and let it rest by putting in an ear plug or by going somewhere that was quieter. I did this as often as possible. It was brutal at first, since my ear was extremely sensitive. Sometimes I would push too far and have a setback and it would take a 2-3 weeks to get back to where I was before. Those weeks were hard. I only did this in controlled environments where I knew the risk of a loud, unexpected sound was low. This worked for me because it slowly built my confidence around sounds and reduced my anxiety, which in turn helped resolve my TTTS symptoms.

      I would recommend giving that a try. Just do it very gradually and make sure not to push too far. I hope this helps you!

      -Sev
       
    13. Beep Boop Bop
      Sad

      Beep Boop Bop Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      05/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Acoustic Shock
      Thank you for the advice. What kind of things would you do to desensitize yourself to sound? I'm not sure if I can sense if my ears are fatigued, as I haven't been around a lot of noise lately. I have pretty much been homebound for the 6 months I have had tinnitus. Are you pretty much back to normal now in terms of no longer being afraid of noise?
       
    14. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      SevDawg

      SevDawg Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Acoustic Trauma (Headphone)
      I work in a fairly noisy lab with a lot of equipment running. I started by working around half an hour with ear plugs in before I called it a day. Over the months I was gradually able to spend more time in the lab, and now I'm at a point where I no longer need to wear ear plugs while I work, unless I feel fatigued from something else during the day. At home, I would listen to the TV at a very low volume in the early stages. I gradually increased the volume over the months as my ear healed and I could tolerate it. Same thing with guitar. I played unplugged for a couple months and then introduced my amp when I felt ready, always keeping the volume at a level where I felt comfortable. But I gradually increased it and now I can play at a respectful apartment volume, same as before the injury. I can even play acoustic guitar now with no issues. I slept with low level white noise every night, which may have contributed to the recovery as well.

      I wouldn't say I'm scared of noise now, I'm just always on alert. I want nothing to do with headphones or ear buds, period. Those things are no longer a part of my life, and that's okay. There are still noises that stress me out. Just last week they tested the fire alarms at my gym and luckily I had my ear plugs with me. I was OK after but it was a close call. My ear was pretty sensitive for a couple days but it's fine now. Had it happened a few months earlier I would have been screwed, but I'm in a place now where I can deal with it. So I'm not quite back to "normal", but I'm pretty happy with my progress.
       
    15. GeorgeLG
      Depressed

      GeorgeLG Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      05/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Leaf blower after yrs of rock guitar, constr & comp shooting
      I am also a musician about 6 months in. I have stopped amplified electric guitar for sure and was surprised to find that acoustic guitar was really bad. The only thing I tolerate reasonably well is unamplified electric with my pick turned to the flat side. With my ears so sensitive it sounds surprisingly loud.

      Did you have a similar experience and did you come up with any tricks?

      For recording I’m trying tracking with the backing track out of speakers at a low level with a cardioid mic and a noise gate. I can’t lock my timing as well as I could with headphones and that strong drum track but I am trying to figure it out. I am also playing around with DI guitar in to my interface and plug in based mild saturation, everything very subtle. Making progress there. I have changed my tone taste to a very subtle saturation tone off of the neck pick up. Starting to like it now. I never liked brittle distortion, it was always softer tube stuff but now it has to be even milder and I have to limit my time.

      Georg
       
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    16. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      SevDawg

      SevDawg Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Acoustic Trauma (Headphone)
      Hey George,

      Yes, I had a similar experience. My ear could only tolerate unplugged for a couple months. I have a Yamaha THR10ii amp that has great tones and I played at low volumes when my ear felt ready. Acoustic guitar is actually pretty loud if you think about it, since your ears are so close to the noise source. I was not able to touch acoustic until fairly recently.

      It's nice to hear that you are still trying to record. I basically gave that up entirely since I got injured. Only now am I getting back into it. It just wasn't worth it to me at the time since my passion was causing me pain.

      The only "trick" I've found is just to not push it too far. Play unplugged with or without ear plugs depending on how you're feeling. Eventually as your ears heal you'd be able to start using your amp at low volumes. It sounds like you're in the right direction.

      -Sev
       
    17. Brandon Wong

      Brandon Wong Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      08/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud Noise Exposure
      Hey Sev,

      Happy to hear you are doing well now. My tinnitus hasn’t got better yet but I can say I’ve turned a corner and accepted tinnitus as it is. I realize I need to get out of my anxiety and panic mode but am still careful with my ears.

      Since Georg is also a musician, I would like to chime in and say the Calmer earplugs is working well for me when I’m editing and mixing music. It cuts the higher frequencies out and my ear doesn’t get fatigue as easily.

      Some might argue that it is not good for those with hyperacusis and may prevent them from recovery. However I think as long as it is not used 24/7, it is fine.

      Bran
       
    18. GeorgeLG
      Depressed

      GeorgeLG Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      05/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Leaf blower after yrs of rock guitar, constr & comp shooting
      Thanks for that. I’ve also found that if I turn down the high frequencies and stay away from too much distortion while tracking recording mixing and mastering I can spend more time on it. I don’t brighten everything back up and get the EQ back in mix until near the end and that seems to help.

      Headphones are verboten in these parts so what are you doing there? Are you braving headphones for Recording and or mixing or are you using speakers? I have been experimenting with the backing track on speakers and Recording with directional Mics and then getting the inevitable background sounds out with a noise gate but it sure would be easier to figure out a way to be back with headphones.

      George
       
    19. Brandon Wong

      Brandon Wong Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      08/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud Noise Exposure
      I don't do studio session recordings as much now so I don't need to be on headphones for extended periods. However I do location recordings and have since bought a pair of iLoud Micro for monitoring, and occasional headphones for 10-20 seconds to check for balance. Initially for the first month of onset, I was still using headphones for extended periods... but I am really not sure if that exacerbated my tinnitus or not. Reason because I know tinnitus usually changes during the first few months.

      You can try reading Jack Rubinacci's book and follow his advice on using earplugs beneath headphones. I tried it for a while to protect my ears. I guess you just need to try whichever methods at safe volume and gauge for yourself what works. Hope you find a way.

      Bran
       
    20. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      SevDawg

      SevDawg Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Acoustic Trauma (Headphone)
      Hey Brandon,

      Glad to hear that you have turned the corner (around the 3 month mark -- I experienced the same!). Still early stages though, so I'm hopeful that you continue to improve. Appreciate your input on the ear plugs -- I agree that finding the right kind can make all the difference, especially ones that cut the higher frequencies a bit more. Higher frequencies fatigue our ears that much quicker. I believe if ear plugs are used in moderation then they can be an important tool in your overall recovery.

      Regarding the use of headphones, I believe I share the opinion of most on this site and that is to avoid them. At least until your symptoms settle and you can prove that the headphones don't cause spikes or any additional damage. I view it almost like trying to ski when you've just broken your leg and are in a cast; why risk your ears when they are at their most vulnerable? I feel like staying away from headphones/earbuds entirely since the onset of my injury absolutely assisted in my recovery.

      But as a musician I understand the need to use headphones for recording and mixing... it's challenging to find a suitable alternative. It appears that George has figured out a setup that works for him, maybe it's not ideal. I like the suggestion for the iLoud Micro, how is the sound quality compared to headphones?

      -Sev
       
    21. Brandon Wong

      Brandon Wong Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      08/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Loud Noise Exposure
      The quality of the iLoud Micros are really good considering the price and weight and you can buy a carry bag, plus they have bluetooth connectivity. When I am in a quiet place I sometimes play some masking noise or music just to have some relieve.

      I initially bought the wrong one... an iLoud MTM instead of the Micros. They are suppose to be much better with inbuilt room compensation mics but also a little bigger. I have not tried them yet.
       
    22. AUTHOR
      AUTHOR
      SevDawg

      SevDawg Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      03/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Acoustic Trauma (Headphone)
      Awesome, thanks for the suggestions. I've been looking for quality speakers that I can use at low/moderate volumes as an alternative to headphones. I'll have to demo the iLoud line and see how well it works for my music.
       
    23. GeorgeLG
      Depressed

      GeorgeLG Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      05/2021
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Leaf blower after yrs of rock guitar, constr & comp shooting
      Thanks for the tip on Jack's book. I summarized what I learned on my recent update here:

      https://www.tinnitustalk.com/posts/624875/

      George
       
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