What Is That Noise? My Take on Living with Tinnitus

By Shari Eberts

I have a 40-50% hearing loss in both of my ears, but only mild tinnitus.  I am grateful for that.  Sometimes I feel that the tinnitus is worse than the hearing loss!  Unexplained sounds buzzing and whistling in your head can make you question your sanity.  And give you the worst headache known to man.  The lack of sound seems almost a relief in retrospect.

Thus far, I have experienced two types of tinnitus. The first has been occurring on and off for several years and is not that troublesome.  I am not sure what the trigger is, or even if there is a trigger, but all of a sudden, I will hear a sound like a fluorescent light was just turned on, followed by a high-pitched beeeeeeeep that lasts for 30-60 seconds.  It will often start softly; build to a crescendo, and then taper off, like someone has turned the fluorescent light back off.  It happens in noise and in silence.  It comes and it goes, maybe once or twice a week.  Strange, but not bad.

But recently, a new type of tinnitus has started, and this one is more debilitating. Again, I’m not sure if there is a specific trigger, but it seems to happen more often after I am exposed to rhythmic loud noises (like a bathroom fan) or to bright lights.  It starts suddenly, is much louder than my friend the fluorescent light, and can continue for an hour or more.  It is exhausting.  I cannot think.  I can’t hear what people are saying to me over the ringing. I want to lie down, but sometimes that is not possible.  I work to focus on the real sounds around me and carry on. 

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Shari Eberts is Board Chair, HHF. She regularly writes on her blog and tweets at @sharieberts

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