Tinnitus for Over Six Months After Falling Down Stairs

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself' started by Tybs, Nov 16, 2019.

    1. Tybs

      Tybs Member

      Tinnitus Since:
      Cause of Tinnitus:
      Fall from stairs
      Hi everyone,

      So, I decided to create an account after all. I've actually been reading these forums for some months already, but I'm sure many people with tinnitus do the same before joining. Time for an introduction. Sit back and try to relax, this is kinda a long post...

      Heads up: this is mostly a log, don't expect that I end up with a cure or something, although I've had some interesting findings. But if I managed to "fix" my tinnitus, I would have posted in the success stories instead.

      Age 32, I'm a software/test engineer, which pretty much means that I write software to test other software with. Up to half a year ago, my life was pretty much perfect: I finished college with a nice degree, got a job right away, continued up the career ladder for quite some years, bought and decorated my house... all while being surrounded with a nice family and a lot of good friends. Love music, though I never visit concerts and such: I've always kept everything low in volume.

      It's actually interesting how you don't actually notice the perfection until it is gone all of a sudden. If anything, this condition has given me a LOT of respect for those people that have been dealing with chronic issues for most/all of their lives.

      April 20, 2019
      Nearing 17:45, I'm getting ready to meet up with some of my friends. I shut down my pc and head towards the stairs, while checking my schedule on my phone. After checking, I put the phone away in my back pocket, while I start descending the (cornered) steps of the stairs. Right after the phone got inside my pocket, I suddenly notice my foot slipping...

      I quickly manage to grab one of the support bars on the sides before gravity gets a hold on my body. In a few moments, I slide/fall down all the way to the bottom, barely managing to avoid the stair steps with my buttocks. Downstairs, I finally hit the last step, resulting in a broken phone.

      In the first few minutes, I thought things ended up quite okay... the phone was done for, but that could easily be replaced. However, when the adrenaline wore off, I started to get quite some pain in my right shoulder. Thinking it would most likely heal over time, I decided to not let it get checked.

      April 21, 2019
      Naturally, I decide to order a new phone.

      April 22, 2019
      Getting ready for bed. The shoulder still hurts a lot, but I'm still sure it will heal. When things quiet down and I'm lying still, I suddenly realize it's not completely quiet... there is a noise I don't recognize. A soft whistle-like sound in my right ear, going up and down in volume all the time. After turning my head around a few times, I'm sure that it's not something environmental, and my conclusion is: tinnitus.

      (I actually encountered the phenomenon earlier, that's why I quickly recognized it. A few years before, I heard one static sound for three months: it drove me crazy at the time. A visit at the ENT made clear that my ears got all clogged up, and after a few minutes of cleaning, the sound was completely gone.)

      Ok, so I got a sound again: no problem, no doubt some wax has the ear filled up again. I wait a few weeks to check if the ear manages to clean itself. This does not seem to happen, but I am slowly greeted with new sounds and higher volumes. I eventually visit my GP: although my ear is clean, he does notice that I have a bit of water behind my eardrums. Good, that seems like a solid explanation, most likely the ENT will be able to take care of it. I get an appointment right away, but I will have to wait a few months before he can see me. That's fine, in the meantime I simply execute my backup plan of using sound enrichment for being able to sleep.

      It is worth to mention that I completely forgot about my "stairs" incident at this point, as the shoulder pretty much healed.

      July 15, 2019
      Finally, the big day is here: the ENT visit. After today, I will be able to sleep normally again. I head towards the hospital with a big smile on my face.

      Roughly 45 minutes later, I leave the hospital. The smile is gone: no water or liquid was present behind my eardrums. The hearing test turned out fine as well.

      "You already use sound enrichment? Good, good... well, nothing we can do here any more. You'll have to learn to live with it."

      This was pretty much the message I got send home with. No further examinations, no more investigation, this is your new life.

      The following week is definitely the worst week I've had in my whole life. At this point, psychological factors came into play: the sounds were playing inside my head like a wild orchestra. Sleep became a far-fetched luxury, while my life had turned into a living hell. Even suicidal opportunities started to creep into my thoughts: although I did not intend to throw myself in front of a train, if I would have had a button available in the night to just end my life in a blink, I would have mashed it without a second thought.

      At least the working days offer some distraction, that pretty much keeps me alive at this point.

      July 22, 2019
      The sounds are getting worse each day, but at this point I realize no one else is going to fix this for me. I start to do research online. Nope, no instant fix available, but it seems like the main issue with tinnitus is not the sound, but your response to it (yup, I'm referring to TRT). Apparently it is possible to detach the "fight or flee" response which the sounds trigger.

      Well, if anything, I do want to live... no point in going on like the current situation. In these weeks, I look up multiple videos/articles on tinnitus management, and although the sounds themselves don't improve, I do manage to decrease the negative response on the sound. I slowly regain a bit of sleep, though the average does not get beyond 4 hours a night.

      Meanwhile, I keep wondering about the origin of the sounds that I'm hearing. At this point I hear plenty of types: tones, static, crickets... and none of them are constant in volume. I even had one time where I woke up with only one mild sound. This remained the same until I eventually got up, and in the next few hours the orchestra regained its strength.

      As a programmer, I pretty much only think in "cause and effect" patterns. Obviously, something happened that triggered this whole merry-go-round in my head. I experience the effects, but so far, the cause is unknown. In order to fix the issue, the cause must be identified. So I decide to drop the sound enrichment all together: I must know my symptoms (the effects) in detail. Also, if I'm stuck with this curse, then I don't want to create dependencies on external equipment to help me get through the night.

      Having plenty of sleepless hours available to "experiment", I have the following observations:

      Primary sounds ("reliable" in a sense of that they return quickly after being temporarily gone):
      1. Fluctuating tone in right-ear (TRE)
      - 3.300 Hz
      - Always going up and down in volume in the same pattern
      - Volume itself varies greatly (anything between not present - screaming)
      - Pattern speed can vary
      - Unable to determine whether it's related to the heart rhythm (the pattern is regular, but the up-down makes the tone hard to track exactly)
      - Slowly decreases in volume when lying on right side
      - Slowly increases in volume when lying on left side
      2. Static (noise) in left-ear (SLE)
      - Volume varies a lot (anything between soft - yelling)
      - Volume increases when turning neck to the left
      - Volume decreases when turning neck to the right
      - Completely disappears immediately when applying pressure to the cheek (bottom-right)
      3. Heartbeat in right ear (HRE)
      - Only audible when lying on pillow with right ear or after some physical strain
      - Was not present before on set of tinnitus (however, the heartbeat has been present with my left ear for my whole life)

      Secondary sounds (recognizable more than once, but often not present, or maybe "masked" by primary sounds)
      1. Static noise in left side of head (SLH)
      - Sometimes audible after usage of electric toothbrush
      - Seems to match 10.000 Hz, though its hard with static to compare it
      - Occasionally increases in volume "randomly"
      - Always fades away again after a few minutes

      There are more sounds, but those don't appear often enough to distinguish, or the main sounds are too loud to get a clear reading.

      During this period I notice that I'm at least improving a bit in managing the condition. I also get energy out of researching the possible causes, probably mostly because I'm quite curious by nature. At this point, I read many articles: one of them mentions patients getting tinnitus after a car crash, due to occurrence of whiplash. Though the article itself is interesting, I do not add this to my "possible causes" list, since I have not been in a crash.

      August 3, 2019
      Though the sounds are clearly present, I do manage to distract myself a bit more, especially when gaming with friends. After a specific gaming session, I shut down my pc and start walking towards the stairs, phone (with schedule) in hand. Just before I get on the stairs, I stop myself: this is a familiar scenario. I recall it not ending well, so I put the phone in my pocket first.

      Suddenly, my mind races back to the previous stairs incident. When did that happen? What did happen exactly? I remember sliding down and having a lot of pain in my shoulder afterwards... wasn't that a possible symptom with the car crashes? Whiplash?

      I head back to the pc and start researching again, and what do you know... yes, plenty of people get whiplash symptoms after falling down the stairs. A lot of strain is applied on the neck due to the head being thrown back and/or forward. Though I'm not completely sure whether my case is exactly a whiplash occurrence, I do realize that the fall happened just two days before my symptoms started (using the date of new phone ordered/whatsapp messages, etc.). It's just too much of a coincidence, and I decide that any treatment should focus on this area.

      August 4, 2019
      I call an acquaintance (who is a licensed physio-therapist) and retrieve a date for intake.

      During the rest of the month, I have a few treatments and do plenty of neck exercises at home. I do notice that certain areas around my neck/shoulders start to get a bit more relaxed. More importantly though, no new sounds appear, and eventually only my primary and secondary sounds remain. Though it could be coincidence, at this point I'm pretty much convinced that I'm on the right track.

      September 2019
      Though the sounds remain during the day, I notice that most of the mornings are much quieter than they used to be. Where I normally had sound all day long, I can now enjoy moments of relative peace. However, it does take the whole night for the sounds to settle, so sleep remains an issue.

      I still had an appointment scheduled with an audiologist, so I decide to list my symptoms and present them there. I first get a hearing test again. It is a bad tinnitus day though, and I mainly hear my tinnitus sounds above the test sounds. Still, the test results are fairly good, with just one (minor) dip at 6.000 Hz. After presenting my symptoms however, I'm baffled at the response I get... although the audiologist acknowledges that tinnitus sometimes has a different origin than hearing loss, during the entire appointment he only talks about the ears and avoids my questions regarding auditory system input óther than the ears, especially since it all started after the fall from the stairs. I get a response a bit like "Well, that could be true, but let's have a look at what the ears do here...". All he does is focus on the one small dip at 6.000 Hz: the fact that you cannot hear the test sounds correctly becáuse of the tinnitus is apparently not important. Eventually, I just roll with it and let him finish his story. He asks if he can close my file: sure, go ahead (I'm not going to get any further investigation here anyway).

      At my GP, I make a request for a neurologist. Though my GP is well willing, he warns me that it probably will end up just like the audiologist, and asks if he should check that for me first. Upon inquiry, the neurologist indeed responds with a similar story. I decide to close this path. No doubt these people are specialists in their field, and I'm sure they like to help, but for some reason they seem to have their own case of tunnel vision with this.

      October 2019
      This month is a bit strange. The remaining sounds are quite active and fluctuate more in volume than what I'm used to, therefore making it hard to retrieve a normal sleep pattern. During a desperate week, I decide to call in the big guns and try to schedule an appointment for the tinnitus clinic in Regensburg, Germany. Though the clinic is already fully booked up till June 2020, they are willing to plan an intake for the end of this month.

      In between, I unexpectedly have one ultimate moment. I wake up in the middle of the night (as usual) having one clear sound, and while I am in my regular thought/try-to-sleep pattern, all of a sudden this sound disappears. Like someone turns off the radio: *click*, and all sound is gone. This moment kinda startles me, and I start searching for my other sounds... but they're all gone. Not a single one can be traced. All I hear is the occasional sound of an early bird outside (and trust me, it is quiet in my area). While scanning, I don't dare to move, as I know by this point that my posture can have great impact on my sounds.

      After ten minutes, I'm convinced: at this moment, I'm completely tinnitus-free. There is nothing masking it, and my ears didn't suddenly go numb, as I did sometimes hear something outside. However, I refuse to tell myself I'm cured: I'm sure that sounds will start again when I make any move. So for the next (roughly) twenty minutes, I just maintain my exact position, enjoying the complete peace of the moment.

      At some point, I know I have to move again, so (after a lot of unwillingness) that's what I do: a minor movement with my head to the right. Sure enough, one small sound appears again. Just as further "research", I make a lot of other minor adjustments, checking if I can somehow regain the silence. Although the sound keeps changing in volume, complete silence is not achieved again. Eventually I carefully retrieve my phone with my free hand (I'm lying on my right side, with the head on the pillow as usual), and after a lot of failed attempts, I do manage to make a photo of my current position. You know, for future reference, and as personal proof that I'm not dreaming. But more importantly, this was definite proof for me that my tinnitus was not sound-induced, which (in theory) means a fix should be possible.

      After getting up, the usual orchestra is playing again. Still, I have a mentally good day, since I know that getting to silence ís possible in my case.

      At the end of the month, I go to Regensburg: my father (who has been an AWESOME helper in this period) accompanies me. First a four-hour drive in the evening to our place to sleep, next a five-hour drive to the clinic. Where, of course, I realize I forgot my documents (yes, I'm REALLY stupid sometimes). Luckily I still have my driver's license and my phone with notes...

      The German doctors that I encounter here are wonderful. No, they don't have an insta-cure: but although apparently something went wrong in their scheduler (the appointed doctor wasn't there that day), they jump through all kinds of hoops to fit me in for any appropriate examinations. Though I'm examined by multiple doctors, I never have to repeat my story: they walk over to each other, talk to each other, and let me know where to go for the next examination. My tinnitus itself is quite fair today, and my audiogram comes out clean: no issues by far. My cheek is investigated as well, no problems found: only one joint that's slightly dislocated, but that should not be the cause here. No psychological issues, so cross that out as well.

      I'm there all day, and in the end the doctor that directed the investigations meets up for a summary. Next to the point previously mentioned, he tells me that the issue most likely lies with neck muscles cramping up. Another option could be turbulent blood flow, but that is unlikely: still, he advises me to have it checked. I have to make sure I keep doing physio-therapy: though he does not promise withdrawal of my symptions, it is clear he has good hope. Should things not be manageable next year, then I can always come back for further investigation.

      November 2019 (current month)
      Got the blood vessels in my neck checked for possible blockages which could cause turbulence, but this part came out clean: which is a really good thing of course, if you have clots there, then you actually risk getting a stroke. Also, it's apparently near to impossible to clean that out by surgery...

      Sleep is still an issue, and to be fair, I'm not completely convinced that the issues are purely with muscles: but of course I keep doing my neck exercises. So far, sounds keep fluctuating in volume and behavior, which does make it hard to completely get used to it. I do manage to fall asleep now without issues, but when I wake up in between, then the situation seems "new" again, in the sense that the prominent sounds and volumes are different from before.

      Then again: I've had two more occurrences this month of complete silence in the middle of the night, and both times I actually managed to retrieve it by myself by "forcing" myself into a specific posture. I still don't know exactly how to do it, but silence is possible... but I don't want to spend valuable sleep hours by a never-ending search for this silence. After all, even when I manage to do it, what will I do next? It's not a useful posture to fall asleep in, and staying awake with it all night is not recommended as well...

      Reading it all back, the situation is actually a lot more positive than what it feels like right now. I just wish that the medical environment in my region would be more open to investigation: everyone seems to be focused on hearing loss and tinnitus management, meaning that if your issue lies somewhere else, no one is willing to search for it. Management is important of course, but why not search for the root of the problem as well... at least I know I will continue searching while needed, as long as it does not become an obsession for me.

      No matter the case, I have one advice for everyone:
      Don't fall down the stairs. Trust me, it's not worth it.

      Got tinnitus by falling down stairs, learning to manage, physio might clear it up since silence is still possible occasionally.

      Also something which I would like to point out:
      This forum is awesome. I've read plenty of threads by now, and the useful information available exceeds all that the specialists (in my area) give by far. The success stories really help in moments when you're feeling down, and the discussions are really interesting to read. There is the occasional mud-fight, but we're on the internet after all... and I do see that everyone just wants to help out in the end. We're all in this boat together, and no doubt we all hope that at some point, this forum becomes an empty wasteland: not because of chasing each other away, but because everyone got a cure/treatment fitting their situation.

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