Tinnitus as a Young Adult

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself' started by Apricot, Apr 23, 2016.

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    1. Apricot

      Apricot Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Hi everyone,

      Firstly, props (and thanks!) to anyone willing to slog through my first post.

      I've been a lurker on forums like this for many years, but haven't (for some reason or another) ever formally made an account. My tinnitus started around 8 years ago (I'm 20, so it began somewhere in the 7th-8th grade range). I've never successfully arrived at a cause, but the list of possibilities (including, among more subtle possibilities, jaw-clenching at night [I wear a mouth guard] ) is pretty extensive. For one, I had a pretty nasty ear infection around 7th grade, which caused extreme pain for the first night and the sensation of wearing earplugs for a half a week or so. My main concern, however, has been with band: I've been involved in playing an instrument, first the trumpet, then the euphonium, since the 3rd grade. I never really encountered any problems with tinnitus until the tail end of my middle school years--I can't remember if it started after or before my ear infection, but ever since then, I've had a faint hiss in both ears that has never subsided. Right before I entered high school, I started wearing earplugs pretty religiously in band, and have pretty consistently stuck with it. Given the fact that I had about 4 hours of exposure a day to pretty significant levels of noise, however, I've still always questioned whether or not band (even with earplugs) has made it worse or cemented it.

      I went to an audiologist about four times in high school (to monitor my hearing through my years of band), and every test essentially indicated that my hearing was almost perfect. Even though I've almost accepted that I probably don't have hearing loss, tinnitus has dominated my life and spare time since the beginning of high school. I became very depressed my Junior year of high school, and almost stopped my involvement in band as a result of my tinnitus. Looking back, I think it was probably right to push through another year--band has been one of the most fulfilling and comforting activities in my life thus far, and I probably wouldn't be who I am without the social connections, incredible experiences, and constant competitions that it generated.

      My tinnitus is (objectively) pretty mild; I think my audiologist put it at around 2 or 3 dB a few years back, and I realize the level of noise it presents could be much, much worse. My mind hasn't made it particularly easy to deal with it, though; I have obsessive-compulsive disorder, and it's difficult to describe just how much my tinnitus, along with the terrifying worries about leading a normal life, enjoying hobbies, and begin able to relax that it produces, has attached itself to my basic thought processes. I can't really recall a time in high school when I was ever able to fully relax despite my tinnitus. All of my homework and studying was done in front of a fan, and I never felt like my mind could fully focus on anything--every ten seconds, I would call myself back to my tinnitus. I can't really say that my tinnitus has affected me academically, since I had the privilege of being first in my class and and receiving a full-ride scholarship, but, past the surface of grading parameters, it's been a very long time since I've been able to sit down and actually enjoy doing something intellectual. Reading in high school was almost always a pretty large task--if my head turned at all from a certain angle relative to the box fan used, my tinnitus immediately pierced through the white noise and interrupted my progress.

      I've been in therapy for my OCD on and off since the end of middle school. Though we've been able to begin controlling the more physical and anxiety-driving elements of OCD, I've never felt like I've been able to control much in my mind. After a sort of relapse this last summer, I started medication and attending weekly therapy sessions again. Given my state of anxiety at the end of the summer, both have helped considerably, and my therapist and I are beginning to work on my underlying obsessions about tinnitus.

      Last semester was the best I've ever felt about my tinnitus; if anything, I think it was because my OCD took over my life and exhausted me to the point where I was incapable of focusing on my tinnitus--taking a shower for 50 minutes before realizing it's 10:00 P.M. and you still have four-five hours of homework to finish doesn't leave much room for dwelling on a noise in your head. In a similar way, the annoying noisiness of the dorms my Freshman year (I'm a Sophomore) took away some of the burden then.

      I realize this post is very long-winded, so I'll try to start getting to my point.

      Since the beginning of this semester, I've started playing in a quartet and my college's wind ensemble (I wasn't involved since then). The time commitment associated with playing is much, much less than it was in high school; instead of playing for ~21 hours a week, I now play for about a total of 3. Because we're coming at the close of this semester, I'm pretty much done with my involvement, and am still considering whether or not I'll continue next semester.

      Either because of my renewed involvement in band or the fact that my sleep schedule is abysmal, my tinnitus has begun to reach the level of intrusiveness it had in high school. I got to a point last semester where I actually thought to myself, "I'm comfortable with my tinnitus, and don't care if it stops or continues." Now, though, the hissing in my head has started to become debilitating again; the only things that seem to really relieve it are showers (which make it spike monstrously, as do most white noises, afterwards) and sleep, and I never feel like I'm really relaxing in my spare time. So, to wrap up this post, I guess I had a few questions. Is there anyone else who has had tinnitus for a long time (8+ years) and still hasn't arrived at any point of acceptance or successfully habituated? Should I be particularly concerned that I have tinnitus at the young age of 20, and, given that I haven't adjusted to it over the course of 8 years, feel like I might never accept it? If I feel that my current therapist isn't really reaching me on an emotional level with my tinnitus (the strategies we use now feel pretty routine and mild), should I seek out a CBT professional in my area? Lastly, is anyone in a similar boat as far as OCD/tinnitus interactions go? I greatly appreciate any comments or advice, and am excited to start engaging with this community in a more personal way as I try again to begin dealing with my tinnitus.

      Many thanks,
      • Hug Hug x 2
    2. billie48

      billie48 Member Benefactor Hall of Fame Ambassador Team Research

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      not sure
      Welcome to the forum. I know you are worried about why you haven't habituated in 8 years and that can kind of add anxiety to make your OCD even more preoccupied with T. From your description, your T seems to be not the worst type. So there is a good chance you can learn to accept your T or at least the reality of living life with T. At least you know that T hasn't done major harm to you except some irritation or distraction. When I was at the 2.5 years mark, I said to myself that hey I am still alive and even with all the setbacks and irritation from T, I could still go back to live my life. Then the light bulb went off that says 'what if I haven't even reacted so badly to T, perhaps I would even have done better, at least it proves that T can't kill me nor make me insane'. So with that I decided to adopt positivity in my approach, accepting, adjusting and adapting, instead of emotionally opposing the T reality. This change in attitude plus using some CBT principles and some strategies of my own have helped me turn around. So try to look at your approach to see if there is some way you can change your attitude. If you have time, you can read my success story here. God bless.


      Here is the story of a lady driver who drives 800-tonne mining truck. By changing her approach after realizing that 70% of her colleagues have T but not sufferiing, she turns around her suffering. Our reaction to T can be enhanced over time to make T less intrusive, and then our brain has a good chance to ignore T.

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    3. Apricot

      Apricot Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Thank you so much for sharing your story, Billie! I really appreciate your advice, and hope that (given the mildness of my tinnitus) I can eventually achieve the level of habituation you've reached.
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