Thursday, December 13, 2012

The sound of silence


Those who know me well would probably tell you that I can be almost irritatingly Pollyanna-ish at times, always prone to look on the bright side and declare my glass half-full, not half-empty.  Just occasionally my normal optimism slips a bit and today is one of those occasions.

For the next couple of days I’ll be on my own at home, while DH visits his mother. Usually this gives me a chance to get on with things more easily achieved when I have the house to myself, and indeed I have a mental list of what I hope to do and have already made a start on it.

But being on my own in a house far from traffic noise, and on a frosty day when not a twig is stirring outside, means that the silence which surrounds me is profound - something I have always loved and valued. The problem is that I have just been brought face to face, as never before, with the stark fact that this silence I love so much has actually disappeared for me and will never return.

The simple reason is that I have tinnitus and it’s getting worse. It started, oh so deceptively, about five or six years ago with a very slight whispering sound in one ear. Over the years it has grown to be a constant, high-pitched, hissing noise in both ears, which is increasingly difficult to ignore and which is gradually making it impossible for me to hear those tiny sounds which are so precious and evocative.

Sounds like the chirp of a distant bird or the gentle rustle of leaves high in a tree or the almost imperceptible murmur of water over pebbles in a slow-moving stream. Close to, the sounds still penetrate, but their clarity and immediacy are blunted by the unceasing noise inside my head. Even music, which plays such an important part in my life, has to be listened to through this barrier and this saddens me.

I’m very aware that this doesn’t mean I’m going deaf and for that I am profoundly grateful. But I still mourn for the loss of something very precious – the silence which I used to find so enriching and sustaining and which made me so aware of being a very small part in the vastness of nature. Tomorrow I will probably bounce back to my normal optimistic state, but tonight I wish I could hear just once more the sound of silence.


62 comments:

  1. I feel for you P. I have the beginnings of tinnitus too and rather than submit myself to silence that is now marred by a high pitched buzz, I plug myself into my iPod and listen to a good book or music.

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    1. As a fellow-sufferer, you know just what I mean, BtoB. It's not too bad when I can concentrate on something else, but in the middle of the night it can drive me to distraction. Sigh....

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  2. I'm afraid I have it, too, Perpetua, and have for some years, no doubt brought on by all that loud music I listened to in my youth, not to mention the loud parties etc. One of the things I like about being by the ocean is that I can't hear the inner noise there. Most of the time, it is not too annoying, but yes, when one craves silence and there is none to be had, well... Still, as you say, things could be worse, such as not hearing at all.

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    1. Much worse, Penny, and I don't usually grumble about it, but occasionally it gets me down. I'm sorry to hear you have it too and I think it's probably becoming increasingly common for the reason you give. I'm glad you find the wonderful sound of the sea helps for you.

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  3. To have tinnitus sounds awful. I hope there's a medical break through soon to help people cope with it.

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    1. It can be really terrible for some people, Molly, and I'm grateful mine is still fairly moderate. It would be good to think that one day science will learn how to alleviate it.

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  4. Sorry to hear that. My Daddy has to deal with this and I think it wears him out sometimes.

    Unless I'm in a situation where it's socially unacceptable, I always have headphones on blarring music...I'm doomed.

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    1. Thanks, EF. Your Daddy has my sympathy. it's the unrelenting nature of tinnitus which can be so wearing. There's just no way to switch it off.

      I hate to say it, but it's the blaring music which can do the damage. If you could just turn it down a bit that would help, but with some music only loud will do....

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  5. I had no idea Perpetua. You are such an upbeat sort of person I'd never have guessed.
    Is there no treatment for it? I'm afraid I know nothing about it, but if as you suggest listening to loud music may have caused it originally, that may explain why I have been so lucky.
    I've never liked any loud noise, music or other, and have actually made my escape from anything too noisy all my life.
    Do you know if any research is being done into a possible cure?

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    1. Pollyanna - that's me, Ray. :-) Mostly I just try to ignore it, but it's getting increasingly difficult to do that when the house is completely quiet. Some people listen to "white noise" to try to block it out, but there's no medical treatment to my knowledge.

      Loud music or other persistent loud noise is only one of the causes, and not of the kind I have, as I too have always avoided loud noise where I can. In my case for some unknown reason my inner ear has become attuned to the sound of my own circulation (hence the name pulsar tinnitus) and can't now not hear it. As for research, I haven't heard of any, but I also haven't looked very hard as yet.

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  6. Poor you - tinnitus is awful, I believe (I have several other friends who suffer with it). I get the occasional high-pitched squealing in my ears, as does the BH, but, as you know, I'm going deaf and that's causing quite a bit of frustration (& I HATE the hearing aids!) But for you, with your cataract as well, it must make you feel very cut off. I'll be in tomorrow afternoon/evening if you want a change from the hissings and fancy a chat on the 'phone! I can shout loudly enough to be heard through the buzz!!

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    1. Thanks, Helva. Tinnitus can be a nightmare for some people, who hear all sorts of weird noises, some very loud, and sometimes this can be the case for those who have otherwise lost their hearing. In my case, though I have a mild degree of hearing loss, the kind that comes with age, it isn't enough on its own for me to need hearing aids as yet. It's just the neverending hiss which makes it harder to hear quiet sounds or voices and what effect hearing aids would have on that, I'm not sure.

      As for the cataract, I've been living with that for the last 12 years, though I've just had it confirmed that it's now bad enough for me to be referred for surgery. Hurray!

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  7. Perpetua - I do feel for you.
    I fear that this is going to be an increasing problems as so many youngsters play their music loudly, and have it going on in their ears for many hours a day.
    I had a spell of tinnitus 20 years ago, the noise was like the old TV sets when the anthem had finished and viewing was over for the evening. I could not think of any thing else apart from the noise, it nearly drove me to distraction. As the months went by it got less and less until eventually it disappeared. It sometimes returns if I am tired or stressed but doesn't stay.

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    1. Thanks, Rosemary. I do agree with you about the damage almost certainly being done by excessively loud music. The trouble is we can have it as loud and long as we like nowadays, which was never possible in the more distant past.

      I'm very glad to hear that the tinnitus you experienced improved over time and rarely bothers you now. If I thought that might happen in my case, I'd be over the moon, but so far it just seems to be getting gradually worse. Still, I live in hope....:-)

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  8. I've had tinnitus ever since the illness that was the start of all my ME/RA woes. That virus nearly killed me so I suppose all these after effects are a small price to pay for survival. That said, it's darn annoying and mine is only mild, you have my heart felt sympathy Kathy x

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    1. Thanks, Annie. I'm sorry to learn that you're a fellow-sufferer. It seems too unkind that tinnitus has been added to your other health problems. As you say, it can be so annoying, especially as there is no respite other than distraction. Heyho, I'd better get back to knitting with music or the TV on. :-)

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    1. No hurry, Annie. I'll be grateful whenever it arrives.

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  10. Oh gosh, this sounds terrible Perpetua. I'm one who simply loves the "sound" of silence and cannot imagine having noise in the silence. If I were to ever get this I guess I would have to have a fan on all the time. I hope morning returns your happier self and that you have some peace.

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    1. Thanks, Rubye. I wouldn't wish this on anyone, so I'm very glad you can still appreciate the deep silence of the desert. Please enjoy it for me too. :-) I tend to have radio, TV or music on in the background when I'm doing household chores, but don't like distraction when I'm reading or writing, so it's at these times that I notice it most.

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  11. Sometimes, I think one just needs to take the time to feel bad for a spell and I admire you for acknowledging it, Perpeuta. I think it helps to validate what you are going through, which I can only imagine and feel so sorry to hear that tinnitus. I'm a hugging sort of gal and sending you virtual hugs from across the pond.

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    1. Thanks, Penny. I'm a hugging sort of gal too and really appreciate those virtual hugs. Last night I felt a bit like Jo March going 'up garret' for a little weep, but this morning I'm feeling much more cheerful again, even though the hissing is still here. I think tiredness makes it even more noticeable, so a good night's sleep helps too. :-)

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  12. I feel for you Perpetua being a fellow sufferer - I can usually shut it out except in very quiet times and when I lie down to sleep but just reading your post somehow brought the noise to the fore. Mine is not as bad as yours but is still annoying.

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    1. There are an awful lot of us about, Susan and the number is set to go up I gather from this morning's news. Teenagers are being warned about the danger of too much loud music. I'm glad you can manage to ignore yours much of the time and hope it stays like that for you.

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  13. My husband has had tinnitus for years and he sometimes says, "It's screaming." I hope someone comes up with a fix.

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    1. Your husband has my sympathy, Linda. It can be hard to live with, especially for those whose tinnitus varies in intensity and is extremely loud at times. At least mine is a very even, constant sound, though it is getting louder. I would hate to have the bangs, crashes ans whistles that others have to endure.

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  14. I'm so sorry to read about this. Like you, I value the silence where I live. I'd be sad to lose it.
    Somehow I knew you were a 'glass half full' sort of person. I like that!

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    1. Thanks, Pondside. I can imagine the silence in your wonderful landscape, broken only by the sound of the waves and the cry of a bird. I do hope you can always enjoy it undisturbed. It's just occurred to me that I'd probably notice the tinnitus less if I lived in a city, but that would be a step too far.

      My tendency to see my glass as always half-full sometimes drives my more pessimistic DH mad. :-)

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  15. Sorry that it is getting you down Perpetua.
    Mine was not caused by loud music either as, like you, I have always appreciated silence. I do miss being able to go for long walks and listen to the wind in the trees or the bird song.
    Two weeks ago I went to listen to some music at my local Abbey . Most of the evening was wonderful. The bass solo was spoiled for me by the tinnitus whistling in my ears.
    Sleep is the most difficult as I am used to sleeping in silence. I can't sleep with music playing as my daughter does. I take a sleeping pill every night.
    Since having tinnitus I have been amazed by how many other people have it to some degree. As you do they all try not to let it get them down or effect their lives too much.
    I love the way you are normally so positive. You inspire me to do the same :)

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    1. Thanks, Kerry. I don't usually let it get me down, but just sometimes I yearn for what I can no longer have.

      I'm so sorry to hear that you're another sufferer and everything you say rings bells with me. Sometimes it just spoils normal pleasures and sometimes it really gets in the way of important things like sleep. My DH tells me to have the radio on as he does, but I simply can't, as I stay awake listening to it which rather defeats the object. :-) So far I'm managing without pills but I can see the attraction if it means easy sleep.

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  16. I am so sorry to hear about this Perpetua. My father in law suffered in the same way, except that he was profoundly deaf as well .......so the only sounds he ever heard were those inside his head. He did not believe in, or possibly, he did not understand the idea of learning to live with it, and spent many years being frustrated and very angry about it. I do hope that you are able to cope with it in a way that doesn't affect your usual enjoyment of life. I do hope you are able to find some moments of enjoyment in these couple of days alone. Fondest wishes, Janice x

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    1. Thanks, Janice. Your poor father-in-law had the very worst combination - deafness without silence. I too would find that well-nigh intolerable. What keeps me on an even keel most of the time is the fact I can still hear the things I love, even if not as clearly as I would wish.

      I'm glad to say a good night's sleep and all these lovely, supportive comments have helped a great deal and my glass is filling up nicely. :-) I know it will get me down again in the future, but I'm still very fortunate to find so much in life to enjoy and treasure.

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  17. So sorry to hear you suffer from tinnitus and that it is getting you down; I can only guess what it must be like but suspect the relentlessness of it must be the hardest part.
    I really vaulue the silence we have here. Though, as you point out, the countryside isn't really silent at all but full of little sounds of beasties and plants. We're in the middle of a weather system right now so the wind is howling round the house and the rain is lashing down.

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    1. Thanks, Antoinette, you've hit the nail on the head. The relentlessness is by far the worst aspect - having a sound inside one's head that simply never stops. It's the first thing I'm aware of in the morning and the last thing at night.

      Enjoy your (almost) silence as much as you can once the rain stops. It's pouring down here too, but without the wind, so that the clouds are just sitting there. Still, it's melting the dreadful ice on our lane, so I'm glad of it. :-)

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  18. I am so sorry that you are feeling down, Perpetua. Life always seems to throw us a curve ball. For one who finds the silent times important, it must be quite sad for you to lose it.

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    1. Thanks, Bonnie, that's exactly it. Silence has always been important to me and I really do feel the loss of it. But as I listen to the rain on the windows and the click of they keys as I type I'm very grateful that I can still hear all these familiar sounds.

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  19. I am very sorry to hear that you suffer from tinnitus. It runs in our family too (it is gradually creeping up on me already, and my mother suffers from it as you do) so I sympathise very much. Why do we get it, I wonder? It's not as if we were all thrash metalheads in our youth!
    Any chronic condition can get us down; it's only natural. But I do hope that you bounce back soon and that the views, at least, of the winter countryside can be some solace.

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    1. Thanks, DB, and sorry to hear that you're experiencing the beginnings of the same trying condition. I didn't know it could run in families, but if some types have a genetic cause that makes sense. I don't know whether my parents had it, as they never mentioned anything to me. I'm grinning at the mere thought of you as a thrash metalhead - no, it simply doesn't compute.m :-)

      As I've said above, I'm feeling brighter this morning, thanks, though the winter countryside is being drenched buy rain today. :-) Being down doesn't come naturally to me and doesn't usually last long, but sometimes I can't help feeling sorry for myself at the loss of something so precious as real silence.

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  20. I'm sorry to know that you are suffering with tinnitus. My hearing is not as it should be as an age-related problem, especially in social situations, and also have a slight buzzing in one ear, which I can usually cope with.
    Glad you are feeling brighter today.

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    1. Thanks, Linda. I know just what you mean about social situations, as I find listening to an individual in a crowd rather hard work nowadays. My lip-reading skills are improving though. :-) I do hope your buzzing in the ear stays slight.

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  21. Sometimes you just have to accept that something you try to live with, to cope with, is getting you down.
    I've been trying to imagine what it must be like to have that constant 'interference' running...and I wonder how you manage to cope.

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    1. I know, Fly. The hardest bit is knowing that it is unlikely ever to improve, but rather get worse and that can be a bit of a downer to accept. I think I've coped pretty well until recently because it started as something so slight and got worse so slowly. It's only now that it is becoming noticeably more difficult to ignore it, but mostly I still manage. Being busy and absorbed in things helps a lot.

      Lovely to see you popping back into blogland. I hope your travels have gone well and that you'll be home with Mr Fly very soon.

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  22. We count our blessings each and every day, for what we had, what we still have, what experiences we have enjoyed. We do this because we know that is an end to everything; and an end to the very things we so enjoyed.
    Keeping up a cheery disposition allows us to be in the present, savoring what we can, and fully appreciating each morsel.

    p.s. I hear there is an apparatus that can ameliorate your condition.

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    1. You are so right, Rosaria. I've always tried to be a "count your blessings" kind of person and mostly I succeed, but just sometimes it's difficult to accept the loss of something so valued as silence. The blessing here is that I still have my hearing, faulty though it may be. :-)

      Unfortunately, because my tinnitus is a constant and pretty monotonous hissing, white noise machines don't work very well for it. They are better at masking what could be described as jagged noises of different types, such as banging and whistling.

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  23. Frankly I did not know about tinnitus, so I read up on it. I found a Youtube from a man, he sounds British, who has followed a treatment he found in a book and says that he is cured. You may like to look at it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vsRCOD1IeOU and the book on the treatment is here: http://www.tinnitusmiracle.com/Tinnitus-Miracle.htm?hop=blogenator. I think it’s called Tinnitus miracle. Well, who knows?

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    1. Thanks so much for taking the trouble to do this research, Vagabonde. I will now go away and look at the links you give. My tinnitus is a much less common form called pulsatile tinnitus, where I hear my own circulation. In other words it's objective (the sounds really exist) not subjective (the sounds are created by the nerves in my ear).

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  24. Oh dear, Perpetua, my dad has suffered from tinnitus for years and years and my sister too. Interestingly, I didn't know about my sister's for ages as she too is a very positive person and never said! I have had it for short periods and each time, I'm so worried it won't stop - but it does. I do sympathise. Gingo Biloba helps some people, and it's good for all sorts anyway, so no harm if you tried it - and also some additional zinc. But obviously no one knows what the cure is, or they would have told you.

    You must be very aware that you are alive - hearing your own circulation. The time to worry would be if it stopped....oops, sorry, too flippant! Big hugs, Axxx

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    1. LOL, Annie! I tell myself the same and it does actually help. :-)

      I gather my kind can have a number of physical causes, so I may bother the doctor about it again, probably when I've had my cataracts dealt with. I tell, you, I'm starting to fall to bits.... Thanks for the tips about the supplements. I'm not a great one for taking things, but you're spurring me to do a bit more research.

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  25. Dear Perpetua,
    I am dismayed by your tinnitus because I have the exact same thing. I hear a constant high-pitched ringing in both ears. I'm not even sure when it started. For some odd reason, it doesn't bother me. Maybe I've lived with it for so long???
    I wish it wouldnt bother you. You are a kind-hearted and wise person. I wish I could help.

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    1. Thanks, Nerima, and I'm very sorry to hear you have tinnitus too, though glad you it doesn't bother you. I think the hardest thing about my kind is the pulsing, which constantly draws my attention against my will and makes it very hard to ignore. But mostly I try not to fret about it and just get on with life. :-)

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  26. I had it years ago after a nasty virus, and it lasted almost a year, but then disappeared. I hated how it made me feel and I can really sympathise with you that yours seems to be getting worse. Very hard to live with at times. But like everyone else here who follows you, I always admire your positive attitude to life and how you rarely let things get to you. Sending you love and a big hug xxx

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    1. Thanks, Ayak. Your hug is greatly appreciated. I'm very glad your tinnitus proved to be temporary and I do hope it never comes back. As I've said already, mostly I manage just to get on with life, but occasionally Pollyanna takes a holiday and it does get me down a bit. Still, with all the activity and noise with the grandsons over the festive season, I won't have chance even to think about it.:-)

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  27. Sorry Perpetua, I haven't visited your blog for several days. Like all your previous commenters, I feel great sympathy for your condition. I'm fortunate not to be a tinnitus sufferer myself, but I've had pastoral dealings with people who are.

    I'm not aware of any treatment for the condition, but the number of people here saying that either they, or close family, are sufferers, is indicative of the size of the problem. As is always the case, the greater the number of sufferers of a particular condition, the more likely it is that research will be funded to try & find a cure. Let us hope & pray that for your sake & for many others, that this will be the case.

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    1. No apology needed, Ricky. This is a very busy time for you.

      I think tinnitus is a much more widespread condition than is generally recognised, as most sufferers don't usually talk about it unless it gets on top of them. The problem with research and treatment is that there are many possible causes of tinnitus, nerve damage being only one of them. My type (pulsatile tinnitus) is rare and isn't caused by nerve damage as far as I can ascertain. I'll be talking to my GP about it next time I see him, just to see whether he has any new information or advice.

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  28. So sorry to hear this, Perpetua. Tinnitus is something I absolutely dread, because I adore silence, music and the samll sounds you mention (rustles in hedgerows, bats). Your half-full approach is inspiring.

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    1. Thanks, Pueblo Girl. It isn't always easy to live with my tinnitus, but I'm an inveterate optimist - my DH would say an unrealistic one :-) and I keep telling myself it would be so much worse to be deaf. I've just spent most of the afternoon listening to music whilst busy in the kitchen and thankfully I can still lose myself in it and almost ignore the noise in my head. That said, i wouldn't wish it on anyone and I do hope you're one of the lucky ones who escapes it.

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  29. Hi Perpetua, I just came across your blog and was fascinated with the comments on tinnitus. I too had it for a short period years ago and can not imagine having to live with it forever. Mine was more of a 'clicking' at one point and then like a 'pulsing'. But lucky for me, it left after about 2 weeks. All of your readers seem to know a lot more about it and possibly have tried all sorts of remedies... but I read somewhere that someone used hydrogen peroide in their ear to remedy it?? Sounds too simple to be possible, but felt like I should mention it...

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    1. Hello Rian and welcome to my blog. I'm really glad to hear that your tinnitus was only a temporary visitor and I do hope it never comes back. Thank you for your suggestion. I think that might well help if the problem was due to an accumulation of wax in the ear, but mine is because the hearing nerves have become over-sensitive and hear something they shouldn't. Mostly I live with it and manage to ignore it as much as I can, but occasionally I do have a moan about it. :-)

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  30. Dear Perpetua, I'm sorry to learn that you have tinnitus. It truly is annoying and distracting, so much so that sleeping becomes difficult at times. And because silence has been so important in your life, this is a special hardship for you. Those subtle sounds you now miss become treasured memories.

    One of the three signs of Meniere's Disease is tinnitus. Many people get tinnitus as they age. It seems to be part of the aging process for many. But when it's accompanied by acute rotational vertigo episodes and loss of hearing, then it's Meniere's. When all that happened to me back in 2006-2008, the tinnitus got so loud that I sometimes wanted to bash my head against the wall to knock myself out. At a Meniere's meeting after my operation, I said to the group that sometimes it was a 9 on a scale of 10 of what I could endure.

    Another women there quietly and unemotionally said that she'd had tinnitus for 20 years and that on a scale of 1 to 10, it was a 15. All of us sitting in that room gasped because none of us could understand why she was still sane and why she hadn't ended her life. And yet there was real serenity on her face.

    That was such a learning experience for me.

    So I'm hoping that as the days and weeks and month pass, you will become so used to tinnitus that you will hardly be aware of it. That's what has happened to me. But I fear that never again will you hear those subtle songs that delight you. That is unless it goes away as it did for Rian in the last comment. Oh, what a blessing that would be. Thanks for suggesting I read this posting. I'm glad to know this about you. It's a connection between us. Peace.

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    1. Thanks so much for your comment, Dee. I knew you would understand the trials of living with tinnitus because of your Meniere's disease. thankfully my tinnitus isn't at the level you describe both for yourself and even more for that poor woman.

      Sometimes, when I'm busy and absorbed in something I'm hardly aware of it, but at night in bed, with no other sounds to distract me, I sometimes feel like I would do anything to get a moment's peace from it. So on a scale of 1 to 10, sometimes I'm at perhaps 2 or 3 or even less and at other times, I'm heading up for 7 or 8. But I live with it and try not to let it interfere with my life more than absolutely necessary.

      It would be wonderful to think it might disappear, but somehow, after more than 5 years now, I doubt it. I take comfort in the fact that I can still hear and enjoy so many things, just not the most subtle ones.

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  31. I have just found this web site - http://www.simplynoise.com/ Apparantly listening to white or pink noise helps. I am trying it out.

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    1. Thanks so much for coming back to tell me about this, Kerry. I've bookmarked the site and will try it out too. Hope it works for you.

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