I first got tinnitus 4 years ago. I was experiencing many health issues which perplexed doctors and me. For lack of any ideas many of the doctors I tried suggested my problems were depression and anxiety related. To make a very long story short, time has proven that my problems were not anxiety or depression related, but at the time, feeling like I had no other options available to me, I acquiesced and agreed to take antidepressants and Xanax. That is a decision I will forever regret because what ensued next was far worse than what the ailments I was living with. After taking my first dose of Xanax, I woke up a couple hours later with my ears screaming. Up until that point in time I had never had any problem with my ears. I had the fleeting, transient, very short periods of tinnitus (like 30 seconds) that I know the vast majority of people experience on occasion. My annual hearing tests at work were always very good. They usually elicited comments from the audiologist along the lines that I had exceptional hearing. I scoured the internet for solutions (Tinnitus Talk being one of the sites I frequented often as a visitor) because my encounters with doctors over the matter elicited the same response that the vast majority of tinnitus suffers get: nothing you can do except get used to it. It took about 18 months, but eventually the tinnitus volume settled down to a tolerable level that I have lived with fairly well since then. But the first year was sheer hell. For the first several weeks I had great difficulty sleeping. One of the most disturbing things aside from the annoyance was that I could not read or even watch TV. Literally, the words would get all jumbled up in my head and I could not make sense of them. As an engineering professional who has to read and write and interact with people a lot, this put a streak of fear into me like I never had. If I couldn't do my job, how would I support myself and my family? Now I not only had physical ailments that were mildly my affecting my life, I now had something that was affecting my livelihood and ability to function as a husband and father. If doctors thought I was experiencing anxiety and depression before, they did not know what real anxiety and depression was, and neither did I until then. I became quite suicidal. I was ready to do anything to make the sound stop, and stopping life seemed like a viable alternative. I sought the help of a psychiatrist. Looking back, my assessment of this so called mental health professional is that he was a complete idiot. Had I been of my regular mind at the time I would have never gone back to him after the first visit. He mentioned a book by some psychologist who claimed that Xanax saved him when he first got tinnitus. He further claimed that he eventually cured his tinnitus, but the reality was that he just habituated as most do. I don't remember the book name or the author, but I sure many TT members have heard of it. I sought the book out, and read (once I regained my ability to read) portions of it. I found it to be poorly written - filled with spelling and grammatical error, and very repetitive. In a few words, hardly an authoritative treatise on tinnitus like this idiot shrink presented it. Anyway, on that basis he said I needed to take Xanax. It was the best treatment available he thought. Rather astonished since I felt it was the cause, I complied nonetheless. Another huge error on my part, but I was desperate. To make another long story short, I eventually realized and later confirmed with my own reading about Xanax, that it was causing my blood pressure to sky rocket between doses. Having been a rather fit person for the vast majority of my life, my blood pressure normally ran about 70/105, and did not deviate much from that even during my initial office visits post tinnitus and pre-extended Xanax - i.e., at the height of my anxiety. During this period between doses of Xanax my blood pressure would spike up to 180/110 until I took another dose. Never at any point before or since has my BP been anything like that. It was quite repeatable, but neither the idiot shrink nor my internist would recognize what was going on. They said it was all due to anxiety. Jump about 4 months forward. My ability to read returned which relieved a good deal of my anxiety, but I was still suffering from the annoyance of the screaming sound and hyperacusis. I can still remember how incredibly annoying the hypercusis was. My youngest was still at the age of crying not infrequently and that would drive me crazy. Also, the sound of dishes and silverware tinkling together was almost unbearable. Couple with that, the loud hissing in my ears would literally make me ill to my stomach. By this time I had figured out that Xanax was a negative, not a positive, in my life. So I asked the shrink to help me get off of it. He refused saying that I needed to take it for the rest of my life. I vowed at that instant that I would get off of it. It took me around 6 months, but I succeeded and I credit that with much of my rapid improvement afterward, though it was not easy. I first tried to lower my dose by half, not knowing any better. I became very sick, anxious, more suicidal than ever, trembling almost to the point of convulsions. My wife called the doctor and we learned I was going through Xanax withdrawal. It was a hugely frightening experience. I read up on the internet - info from a Professor Ashton I think - about tapering my dose. I began shaving my pills down my by the tiniest amounts. I was down to about 1/64 of my original dose when I quit taking that awful drug completely. By then I had also quit going to the goofy shrink. I continued to take anti-depressants for about the next year, but then quit taking them as well. During this time my tinnitus gradually subsided to medium tolerable levels, never completely going away, and sometime spiking to very annoying levels, but generally much better. Over the next year, things continued to improve, and I have been living a pretty normal life since. Until a couple of weeks ago. Because of my other health issues I have had to give up my prior normal recreational activities of playing tennis, golf, and running. I gradually returned to participating in outdoor activities like hiking, fishing, and hunting. Things I had not done much of since my pre-college days. Hunting? Yes hunting ,with loud shotguns (though with ear protection). My son gained a great interest in hunting, so I became interested in it again too. I had vowed to not let tinnitus run my life, so I wasn't going to let it spoil the fun and bonding time with my only son. I even went so far as to become certified as a shotgun instructor. As you might guess, more than once I forgot to put in my ear plugs and/or my ear muffs before firing. It is an easy thing to do. Normal conversation between shots with hearing protection on is difficult. So sometimes I would remove the protection to talk, and occasionally forget to put it back on It was a very infrequent occurrence though. I may be exposed my ears to naked firearm noise 6 or 7 times in the last year. The blast would cause some short term tinnitus at annoying levels, but nothing like I had before, and it would subside pretty quickly. But this last time - wasn't like that. I had been helping a friend of my son's - a new shooter - between shots. I took my ear plugs out and forgot to put them back in. When I shot, the ear pain and loud ringing was immediate and worse than any other prior time. I ignored it, put my plugs in and kept them in for the remainder of the practice session. By the time I got home, the sound had subsided greatly, so I was unconcerned. I woke up that night, however, with my ears screaming at a level every bit as bad as my worst experiences before. The hypercusis returned over the nextfew days, and I have been unable to sleep much since. From an anxiety perspective things are not too bad. I've been through this before, I tell myself, so I can do it again. I am a little worried nonetheless that maybe I have done serious permanent damage that will not allow the sound to subside. I decided to join TT this time rather than lurking in the background. Having not kept up with the frontiers of tinnitus in the last couple years, if there is something new in the field that I should know, I'd appreciate it if someone brings it too my attention. I'll be combing through threads I suppose looking for some thing, but I suspect I won't find any clear cures or reliably helpful treatments, and that I'll just have to endure hopefully until I habituate again. I'm not at all sure what to do about shooting sports. I don't want to have to tell my son I can no longer take him hunting. He has gotten rather good at it. (I have ingrained in him to always wear hearing protection, by the way).