I have ringing ears (Tinnitus) for more than two decades. No rumbling, cracking, or whatever, but a stable beep at a frequency that is above the human speech range, somewhere at 7 to 8 kHz. For a long time I thought this beep was the result of physical damage to my ear; Ear hairs not standing up right anymore, but lying down. I have never really studied the subject, because I always assumed that nothing can be done about it. In addition, it was clear to me that for many years treatments and cures has been researched throughout the whole world, but nothing close at all towards a breakthrough.
People driven to Suicide
Over the years I have heard some terrible stories with the most disturbing being people committing suicide because they could not cope with tinnitus. I never understood that myself. Of course, it is not nice to have a constant ringing or rumbling in the ear, but the only way to deal with things that are constantly present and over which we (apparently) have no control, is to accept that it is like it is. Of course I also understand that accepting facts and situations can sometimes be difficult, but I also find it difficult to understand that there are people who are so irrational that they do not trying to find ways to accepting instead of taking such drastic measures. Anyway, I'm not someone else, and someone else is not me. Fortunately I accepted my ringing ears from day one (maybe from day two).
"ME" :) ...image: published at Pexels by Magda Ehlers (source)
Over the years I have discovered that there are times when the my beep is more intense, and at other times my Tinnitus is hardly present. When I am aware of, I concentrate on the beep, this beep is more present, the volume is higher and I hear it continuously ...like while writing this article. My focus is on the subject of ringing ears issue, so I simply hear it more.
When I get off the plane, the beep is also more present. The pressure in the cabin while we fly is during flight similar to air pressure on 3 km, where the pressure is lower than on earth. It is therefore clear to me that a fairly rapid change in air pressure leads to more emphasis on my ringing ears: How, What, Why exactly? No idea. Will I no longer board the plane for this? No, I learned to live with this too.
When I have been to a music event, concert, festival or whatever, my tinnitus is often more present, although I always wear ear protectors.
I also notice changes when taking certain medicines and/or stimulants. Sometimes simple paracetamol can put an increased emphasis on my beep. In almost all cases, smoking a joint causes the beep to be more present. I have my explanations for why all these effects, but don't know if this is all scientific.
Full Acceptance is Key
I do know that I will have to live with the beep every day for the rest of my life, so I have to accept this at all times. That is why I should never worry about the beep; It is part of me. I shall not hope this beep will ever disappear. When I start to think it can be cured or treated at some point in time, it shall only be the possibility, but I shall not hope for it. Since when I start hoping a emidy will be discovered which can solve my tinnitus will ensure that the ringing is more present. And that is precisely what all of us who suffer from tinnitus want to prevent. It should remain in the background as far as possible. So the only way is: Accept tinnitus for the full 100%.
Large Problem and 'Treatments'
Recently I read two interesting articles about tinnitus, written by a Dutch culture journalist. Based on his own experience with a (temporary) tinnitus problem, he decided to tackle this topic, to investigate it and to write a few articles about it . The articles are in Dutch, but with auto Google Translate you can easily read them in your language of choose.
Several facts I noticed reading these articles and the corresponding reactions from doctors, psychologists and experiential experts:
- Ringing ears is not caused by ear hairs lying down, but introduced by the process between the ear and brain. What exactly and how exactly, nobody seem to know.
- Many, many people suffer from tinnitus, temporarily or permanently; Estimates ranges from 15% to 30% of the population (YES, you read that right, up to 30% of all people on our planet!).
- Many treatment techniques, therapies and even apps have been developed that seem to benefit at least some of the patients.
I knew many people suffer from ringing ears, but never thought the group is that large. Interestingly, after more than 30 years of research, we are not a step further in the treatment, maybe not even in understanding it. I do think that it will be very difficult to develop generally applicable treatment methods, because firstly ringing ears cannot be measured and there are many different forms of ringing ears.
In addition, I am quite surprised by the amount of treatment methods and techniques that have been developed to the benefit of (some) patients. I myself have never undergone any form of treatment, but I will certainly investigate further if I want to try one or more methods.
I am thinking, for example, of the following methods described in the (referenced) articles:
- Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT): TRT is a treatment method originally developed by Pawel Jastreboff and Jonathan Hazell, in which the patient first learns how ringing ears works, and then learns to deal better with the emotional and physical responses that the tinnitus elicits.
- Tinnitus specific Music Therapy: a method developed by Annette Cramer, music therapist, and a neuro specialist to reduce the focus on the beep with which apparent good results are achieved.
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): ACT is a behavioural therapy, where the emphasis is not placed on the accuracy, truth, or validity of thoughts and behaviour, as is usually the case with most forms of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. ACT focuses more on the functional usefulness of thoughts and (re)actions, and not whether or not they are correct, or justified. Furthermore, ACT is similar to the other therapies mentioned here because it aims to find a non-judgmental way to deal with tinnitus sound.
- Forms of Mindfulness: Mindfulness is a collective name for all kinds of techniques that have to do with consciously bringing attention to the current experience in an (as much as possible) open and non-judgmental manner.
- Form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a mixture of behavioural therapy with interventions developed from cognitive psychology. The core is the assumption that thoughts cause dysfunctional behaviour, such as avoidance behaviour (in the case of tinnitus) or aggression. To break the circle, the patient is encouraged to assess and adjust these thoughts to reality values. The ultimate goal is to break the patterns of behaviour that in the short term may help to reduce the complaints (for example, avoid or control), but maintain or even reinforce the complaint in the long term.
In addition, many studies are currently being conducted into the use of what are commonly referred to as party drugs and what influence these may have on the conscious awareness of tinnitus. Think of Ketamine and Ecstasy. Interesting articles in this area include:
-  Clinical trial study in the USA
-  by Madeleine Armstrong (research journalist)
-  by Don J. McFerran, David Stockdale, Ralph Holme, Charles H. Large, David M Baguley (doctors)
-  by Barry Keate (research journalist)
-  by Christa Nuber (research journalist)
Whether these articles presents drugs I want to test myself, I don't know yet. But it's definitely worth trying. If it doesn't help, then at least I have enjoyed the drug in different ways :)
I will also further investigate the following Apps which are mentioned in the articles and comments. I am very curious if my beep can be kicked out my brains. But, as already mentioned before, I don't have any hope.
- myTinnitus (Apple App)
- ReSound Relief (Apple & Google App)
- Notched Tunes (Google App)
- Tinnitracks (Apple & Google App) - note: expensive; not referenced by scientists
- myNoise (WebApp)
- Tinnitus Help (Apple & Google App) - note: expensive; not referenced by scientists
I am very curious about your own experiences with tinnitus. Do you suffer from this yourself? Or have people close to you having tinnitus? What do you think you owe it to? What did you do to reduce or even cure tinnitus? How does it affect your life? How do you deal with tinnitus? Have you fully accepted tinnitus?