Where Have the Sounds of Silence Gone?

Invasive sounds constantly roar between my ears. Sometimes these sounds are like ocean waves, calm or static hums, or the high-pitched whistle of an approaching train. Right now as I write a rushing sound goes through my right ear and a lesser roar through my left. These sounds, common to those afflicted with a malady called tinnitus, overshadow and divert music and voices meant to be heard.

A 2007 study about the prevalence of tinnitus reported other sounds such as: “high-pitched whining, electric buzzing, hissing, humming, tinging or whistling sound, or as ticking, clicking, roaring, crickets or tree frogs or locusts, tunes, songs, beeping, sizzling, sounds that slightly resemble human voices or even a pure steady tone like that heard during a hearing test, and in some cases, pressure changes from the interior ear.”

But no matter what it sounds like in my ears, I’ve lost touch with the sound of silence. Silence is over, caput, and I fear, never to return. Plus, tinnitus was my first clue that I have a hearing problem. Now, I can’t tell if my hearing is getting worse or my tinnitus is getting worse. Working together, they have rendered me quite impaired.

Needless to say I would like to find a cure, so I’ve been doing some research. First I’ve found there are two kinds of tinnitus:

  • Subjective – Subjective tinnitus is usually caused by long and excessive exposure to loud noises or by the side effect from certain medications. Typical cures are drugs and nutritional supplements, electrical stimulation, repair of an opening in the inner ear, or sound and psychological therapy. Wouldn’t you know it? Some must think it’s all in my head.
  • Objective – Objective tinnitus could be caused by muscle spasms or changes or turbulence in the blood flowing through the ears. This type can be treated by surgery, cochlea implants, botox, or removing excessive earwax.

I’ve also consulted with my nutritional and other healing gurus who suggested taking Ginkgo bebola and Lipo flavonoid. Neither worked for me. I also was gullible enough to listen to a television ad that expounded the curative nature of special ear-ringing drops. However, more of the oily goop flowed out of my ears than remained inside. That didn’t work either.

One know-it-all recommended cranial-sacral or neck and head massage therapy, while another suggested I keep my mouth open permanently just like a lipstick model and utter humming sounds from the back of my tongue while expressing long, deep, rolling sighs. Was he kidding? I can only imagine how the sounds I make on purpose will interfere with the ones that live inside my head without my permission. Frankly, I think this is all a bunch of hooey.

However, I haven’t given up. As part of my research I went back to the audiologist who fitted me with my hearing aid a little over a year ago. His first question was, do I grind my teeth or clench my jaw at night and the answer to both is yes. I’ve always done it – or so I’ve been told. His solution is to wear a preventative plate in my mouth to help me stop the grinding for sure and lesson the effects of clenching. He also suggested I drown out the sounds in my head with other pleasant sounds – like white noise at night and classical music during the day. That makes sense to me. If I play other music I will think about the nice pleasant sounds rather than how much my tinnitus is annoying me and interfering with my hearing. He also turned up my hearing aid, which he said might also give me some relief. Unfortunately he did concur with my belief that there’s no known cure at least for the kind of tinnitus I have – the subjective kind. If the audiologist’s suggestions make a difference, I’ll be forever thankful. Otherwise, I just have to learn to live with it and hope I don’t go stone deaf as my husband fears.