Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Me and my tinnitus.

I was intending to post regularly, but that hasn't happened.

I wanted to post some short stories, but that hasn't happened either.

Instead, I woke up with a high pitched tone in my head.

Doesn't seem like much. Just an irritation. Right?

Except for one thing: it didn't go away.

And I could no longer sleep.

At least, not much.

The damn noise was just too loud.

I'd get an hour, maybe two, per night. That was it. The rest was tossing and turning, wandering around, listening to music, and watching TV. Couldn't focus enough to read.

I certainly couldn't write.

I'd gotten tinnitus. It's often the result of damage to the tiny hairs deep inside our ears, but can also be caused by a viral infection, among other things.

Mine isn't in my ears.

It's in my head.

This new companion is merciless, unrelenting, and never goes away. It's like a combination of Jason and your least favorite in-law, and it's at you day and night.

At least Freddy only bothers you when you're dreaming.

I'm being hyperbolic, of course. It's really much more like Chinese water torture. Just the sonic version.

According to Wikipedia, there are no effective medications. No cure. No treatment. It affects up to fifteen per cent of people, but is only a significant problem for one or two per cent. For twenty-five per cent, it just gets louder as time goes on.


Sometimes, during the day, I can find an environment that's chaotic and noisy enough to mask the vile howl. There needs to be enough noise of different frequencies and different sources to be distracting, but not enough to cause hearing damage.

In one cafe, for a few moments, I even thought the tinnitus had gone away. Keep clinking those dishes!

But no such luck.

It's likely permanent.

That's the real kicker.

I saw an ENT (Ears, nose, throat) specialist in short order, by a stroke of luck and pulling a few connections.

Immediately went on an intensive treatment of steroids and anti-virals. These were intended to reduce inflammation inside my head, which might have been caused by a particularly bad cold.

That could be at root of it all.

Did no good.

But the sleep deprivation was rapidly becoming the bigger issue.

Even an existential issue.

I started to lose my sense of balance. I got regular, persistent headaches and felt sick to my stomach, but couldn't throw up. It was like feeling sick, but not being sick. A subtle distinction. I could still eat, and I began to over indulge, as a distraction.

I've always been moody but now I was self-parody.

Every time I shut my eyes the noise got louder

Action was required.

First discovery: over the counter sleeping pills are worthless.

Prescription sleeping pills got me a whopping 3 or 4 hours worth of shut eye per one-and-a-half pops. The side effect is that they make you feel dreadful, coat your thinking in cotton, and ruin your memory for the day. I'm not sure if you reach that sweet, deep REM sleep you need to really refresh.

So I had a dilemma: you can't go on forever on little or no sleep. Yet the only way I could sleep was with sleeping pills you aren't supposed to take for more than two weeks at a time.

Do the math.

Tinnitus had robbed me of rest. It was now slowly eroding my sanity. Eventually, the sleep deprivation could threaten my job, and ultimately my life.

By this point I was running multiple white noise generators during the night: fan, humidifier, heater, a white noise app on the phone, and an eight hour long Youtube video on my desktop computer.

It helped, but not much.

I still got little to no sleep.

Melatonin, valerian, gingko, and zinc pills were all added to my diet.

Got in to see a new GP and was put on a new medication: remonen.

At first, it didn't work at all. Just gave me wicked headaches and weird feelings in my head I'd never felt before.

At the end of the first week of taking it, however, I was getting more sleep.

In fact, this morning, I was woken up by the alarm clock.

That hasn't happened for some time, and it was totally AWESOME.

I didn't think I'd need alarm clocks again. Often I'd be looking at the clock, waiting for it to go off. Sometimes I'd shut it off a minute before. Sometimes I'd let it bleat for a bit.

Distraction. Always good. Even an alarm clock.

I'd say the remonen has likely saved my life, just as the American Tinnitus Association saved William Shatner's. If it continues to work, and it isn't a fluke, I'll be able to get some much needed rest.

I'm very hopeful.

As awful as the tinnitus is, I can manage, so long as I can sleep.

Believe me, you'll never realize how precious sleep is until you can't.

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