By Héctor Arturo Corona López
“It isn’t that they can’t see the solution. It is that they can’t see the problem”. G.K. Chesterton
Tinnitus is according to the Webster Dictionary a ringing, buzzing or clicking sound in the ears, not caused by external stimuli. This definition hardly means something, unless one has to live with the noises.
My problem and the searching of a solution began in December 2000 when the first permanent attack began. In former times, in the 80’s, I had experienced them after hearing loud music in a bar. However the problem disappeared the next few days and soon everything was forgotten. As nobody warned me about tinnitus I thought the real risk was the deafness, but there were no reasons for worrying about it. Immediately I’d notice it.
My life in the 90’s became successful in the professional field, but my health began to deteriorate. For years I had been accumulating a high degree of stress and now it was provoking me certain pains in my body. Being a workaholic I always felt tired and soon a soft noise in my ears started to accompany me, but it was so nice that it helped me to sleep better (believe it or not!). Nonetheless, I decided to consult with a physician about my problem who found nothing dangerous.
The Nightmare Begins
In the first days of December 2000, a very loud and unpleasant noise in my left ear woke me up in the middle of the night. It was like the sound that an air compressor generates when one inflates a tire. I believed this problem was going to disappear the next day and tried to sleep again. As luck would have it, this did not happen and after several days I went to see the doctor because the noise was unbearable. He found a certain amount of earwax in my ears, cleaned them and sent me home. At that time I really believed this problem was over. I was worrying too much for something without importance!
Days passed and the dreadful noises didn’t go. The ringing remained and started to damage my nervous system. I visited the physician again who recommended I see an ENT specialist. Immediately I made an appointment with one who was a young, serious and unfriendly person. After a careful evaluation, he ordered several analyses for discarding certain illnesses and before leaving the clinic he told me: “I’ll be sincere with you, these sounds are generally permanent”. I said nothing, but I was angry and terrified. Since my childhood I tried to build a better future for me and my loved ones and now a noise heard only by me was going to destroy everything. I felt impotent and abandoned to my destiny. How was I supposed to live with it the rest of my life? The soft sounds that for years were my friends and helped me to rest better at night were now my worst enemies and had come to stay.
Searching For a Solution
The analyses proved that physiologically I was OK, but the maddening noises didn’t disappear despite the treatment based on vasodilators and vitamin B. I decided to surf the Internet and began to read everything I could find about “Tinnitus,” a new vocabulary word that I’d have not wished to know ever. In general the information that I read was disheartening. The damage was permanent and irreversible and sometimes the sufferers committed suicide. How could this happen to me? How did I reach this situation? What caused this problem? As far as I knew I suffered neither traumatic accidents nor brain tumors. My life style was conservative in principles and practices. It was not fair. But, I was not going to surrender so easily. If there was a problem, it should be an acceptable solution.
Lessons of Homeopathy, Acupuncture and Neurology
Curious and skeptical, I visited a Homeopath who was considered an expert. He only asked me some questions and immediately gave me some medicine without a check up. I assumed that either he was a genius or a liar. I followed his orders during two months and only got better the first days when my expectations in the treatment were still very high (surely a psychological effect). Afterwards, I began to feel disappointed and said goodbye. Whether homeopathy has ever been successful treating tinnitus, it did not work for me, and it was unnecessary to spend more time and money there.
At the beginning of the summer I changed direction. I was a very young adult with a life to be lived, but I was losing the battle after just 6 months. Now my main problem was related with my deteriorated nervous system because of the terrible anxiety. I decided to look for another diagnostic and specialist. When I made the appointment with the neurologist my face was emaciated, my body was slightly shaking, my sight was a little blurry and I felt somehow dizzy and depressed. It was my last chance before taking a more radical decision. After examining all the previous analyses, the ENT ordered a Computer Tomography and gave me a new treatment. He prescribed anti-neurotics, vasodilators and diazepam. Gradually my nervous system recovered, but the tinnitus didn’t go away.
I decided to try acupuncture because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life hearing strange sounds. I was told that it was very effective in these sorts of cases. I attended a clinic where my health was verified and a “physician” discussed with me my health problems. He believed that the ringing was related with my “liver” (it was inflamed). I began the treatment in which some needles were inserted at specific points through the skin around my navel and I drank a strange, magnetized water along with a tea for my liver. I felt a little better the first days, but the noises never disappeared. I visited him only three times and his method helped me to feel quieter and more relaxed without the use of drugs. But all this was very far away from my original aim.
Adaptation and Habituation
The recurring idea of thoroughly eliminating the noises in the ears is possibly a big mistake because the mind is always focused in the problem. The secret is to learn to manage and coexist with the tinnitus creating a favorable, conditioned response even though it could take a long time. It is very dangerous to never stop thinking of it because the noises are worst and crueler with us. This delays the slow process of adaptation and habituation. On the other hand, if one endeavors to ignore it, probably one will fail. That’s why is so important to be active and do many things that can distract us while we are under medical prescription. Gradually the process of desensitization must begin letting the tinnitus become a sort of white noise in our brain. This method will take time, but it seems effective and it’s worthwhile. It’s a kind of TRT.
A Holistic Approach
I think, tinnitus is a problem that has not been well understood or studied. There are few specialized clinics and the average physician doesn’t offer much help. An interdisciplinary scientific team is required for identifying the sources, determine the nature and cause of the disease and comprehend better this strange phenomenon. If we want to find more solutions the support of the alternative medicine should not be ignored (homeopathy, acupuncture, reflexology, aqua therapy, chiropractic, naturism etc.). It can work.
There are no magic solutions but I believe in most cases we can break the vicious circle and we can reach the desired equilibrium. Nowadays I feel much better and my life is again normal. I’m more careful in my life habits. I avoid noisy places and wear ear plugs if necessary. I drink neither coffee nor salt. I take half pill of diazepam when I have a really bad day and in general I have a more natural life. Even though the tinnitus remains, it has decreased a little its intensity and therefore I resist more its attacks without the use of drugs. This has improved my strength, resistance, confidence and tolerance.
In the meantime, I visit the message boards of the self help groups in Internet for news. Eventually I read the Web pages of the different organizations related with Tinnitus and haven’t lost the hope that someday a new generation of scientists and investigators will develop more effective techniques.
This is my story, a story of struggle and endurance against a terrible foe that will not be missed when it’s gone. You only need to have the stamina for resisting its attacks! The future is again bright and promising. This is a beautiful life and our unique opportunity for transcending, but we will only be able to do it if we stay alive.