“I know a song that’ll get on your nerves, get on your nerves, get on your nerves…”

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head? – An unwanted earworm that keeps playing over and over? A catchy piece of music that continually repeats through your mind, long after it has finished playing? This is similar to how I would describe my tinnitus. But instead of the notion of the song, there is actual ‘noise’, and the music never stops playing. There is no end to the record.

Tinnitus is defined as the perception of noise or ringing in the ears or head. The noise is not from an external source, and can manifest itself in many forms. The varying sounds have been described as whistling, whirring, clicking, screeching, hissing, ringing, buzzing, pulsing, whooshing, or even musical. Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying condition such as hearing loss, ear injury or circulation problems. From the moment I lost the hearing in my left ear, I simultaneously gained these unwanted sounds. My life became noisier.

My tinnitus feeds off salt and sugar, caffeine and alcohol, and feasts on a lack of sleep. Exposure to loud noise makes my tinnitus worse; giving it energy, enabling it to accelerate or become louder, and more prominent. Sometimes it is so loud that it is difficult to hear or concentrate on ‘real’ sounds. Sometimes it steals my attention from conversation. My tinnitus seems to be related to the pressure I feel in my ears and head. Louder or faster tinnitus means more pressure, sometimes culminating in a pain that feels like the inside of my ear is being stretched to full capacity; to the point of something bursting.

For some people their tinnitus comes and goes, and for others it is constant, chronic and persistent. Mine is ever-present. It will often fade into the background of my days; everyday noises will usually mask it, forcing it away from my attention. Yet, there is the cruelty of finding a peaceful moment, or going for a walk in the countryside, and realizing the tinnitus has no ‘real’ background noise to overcome. It bounds into the foreground, onto the stage for full attention.

At night-time there are no ‘real’ sounds to mask it. At night-time it loves the limelight; gobbling it up with glee. The more I focus on it, the more layers of noise I discover. The foundation layer is the sensation of being underwater. I am under the sea, swimming deeper and deeper; water whooshing past my ears. With more focus, electronic-sounding agonized moans begin to emerge. A violin enters the stage; playing a continuous high-pitched and out of tune note that wavers painfully up and down in tone. The sound of an old metal kettle materializes, boiling with the shrill continuous whistle; demanding to be taken off the heat. Occasionally there is a piercing spark of noise; like the sound you’d expect your finger to make if you were turning something magically to ice. Sometimes the moans sound like melancholy singing. A penetrating fog horn begins to sound. A burst of crackling radio static joins the chorus, as the knob of an analogue radio is turned; seeking out a resonating frequency and occasionally skipping past the notion of a word or a piece of music.  I make pictures with my mind. I form images around the sounds. The more I focus, the more elaborate the scenes become. Wailing prisoners bound and shackled, all in a row, somewhere in the distance. Someone is trying to scream, but is not able to make the desired sound, just a sharp continuous squeal. There is someone drying their hair in another room…

… When I stop feeding it my attention, it’s back to swimming underwater.

My tinnitus is like being in an argument I don’t want to be part of. I am engaged in a duel I didn’t sign up for. At times it can be a torture. I am always fighting. I stay busy. I take my mind off it. I surround myself with everyday sounds.

I find myself observing people on the street, on the Metro, in bars, restaurants and parks. I wonder whether they too have these unwanted noises. Are they too trying to ignore the record that won’t stop playing?

I choose to ignore my tinnitus with as little effort as possible. Since the more effort used, the more attention it receives, and then it starts to win the battle. It’s a paradox I must fight. I wish for the noises to stop. I dream of relishing a quiet moment, but I can’t remember silence.

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Author: myhearinglossstory

Hi, My name is Carly. I am 36 years old and I am currently living in Spain. I am originally from a small seaside town in Yorkshire called Bridlington, and have also lived in China and Thailand. I am an Early Years primary school teacher, and have been teaching for more than 12 years. I love walking in the countryside, getting lost in Madrid, going out for breakfast, taking photos, listening to music, storytelling podcasts, baking, running, drinking wine, and eating spicy food. In August 2016, I experienced sudden sensorineural hearing loss in my left ear. I started this blog as a way to inform my friends and family about my progress, for anyone else who is going through a similar experience as me, or for anybody who is interested in learning about this type of hearing loss, and the way it can affect everyday life.

18 thoughts on ““I know a song that’ll get on your nerves, get on your nerves, get on your nerves…””

  1. I hear ya! Ok that was a bad pun but I know how you feel. My tinnitus has been constant for over 11 years. I usually try to ignore it but once in a while there will be a sudden change in pitch or rhythm and it will get my attention. I will think “that was weird” or “I wonder what that means” but I am careful not to speak my thoughts out loud because I know that no one else hears what I do and I fear others will think I have lost my mind.
    I am so glad to see your post today Carly, because I was just thinking about you yesterday. I hope life is good for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Ruth. Thank you so much for the comment, it’s great to hear from you 🙂 Yes, it definitely gets easier to ignore the tinnitus with time. But you’re right, whenever there’s a change in pitch or speed, it immediately gets my attention! All’s fine in my life at the moment thank you – the summer is finally coming to Madrid 🙂 I hope you are well too? Take care, Carly.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is my life to a tee. Wonderful descriptions of my daily trials and tribulations with airplanes, factories, monks chanting and Christmas music. I am beyond excited to see a shared experience that gives me hope to handle this challenge. Meditation and acceptance get me through the long days filled with auditory hallucinations. I hope you are okay with me sharing this.
    Warmest

    David

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hello David, and thank you so much for the comment. I am glad I was able to describe your experiences through mine. It really does provide some comfort to know that these experiences are shared – although I wouldn’t wish them upon anyone. Of course I am very happy for you to share this 🙂 Sending you my best wishes and hoping you are well. Carly

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  3. I’ve had tinnitus since childhood. Mostly it’s a high-pitched whistle or squeal, but sometimes it pulses. In the spring and early summer when the windows are open, I notice that it matches the sound of our local tree frogs, only two octaves higher. Usually I can ignore it, but it’s always there, most noticeable in quiet mornings and evenings. Thank you for writing such a clear description and explanation of the condition. J.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello. Thank you for reading and for the comment 🙂 How strange that your tinnitus matches the sound of the local tree frogs! – I guess everyone with tinnitus can relate the noises to something familiar…Yes, I also find that mine is more noticeable during ‘quiet’ times.
      I’m glad you found some interest in my post 🙂
      Take care
      Carly

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Or course, along with my hearing loss, is tinnitus. Mine is relatively mild, just a steady low to mid-frequency humming which hardly ever interferes with my daily activities and sleep. If I stop to think about it, I do hear it more distinctly. I wonder if my severe loss of high frequency sounds is why it isn’t any worse?

    Your description of the kind you have seems downright debilitating. I can see why you relish the daytime and dread the night. Anything to distract you would be a welcome event, I’m sure. If I understand what you say, it appears the tinnitus is only in your deaf ear, or do you have it in both ears? Mine is both.

    Anyway, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this was quite an eloquent post about a difficult topic for you. Once again your gift for descriptive writing comes to the fore.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Al. How are you? It’s great to hear from you, as always 🙂 I’m glad to know that your tinnitus doesn’t interfere too much with your life.
      I’m finding mine much easier to deal with as time passes. It really is only the nighttime when I struggle with it now, especially if I’ve eaten a meal with salt in it, or have had any alcohol.. I think eventually I’ll just get used to the noises..
      Yes, you are right, the tinnitus is only in my deaf ear…
      Thank you for the comment about my writing. I actually wrote a lot of notes for this post one night when I couldn’t sleep, and then put the post together a few weeks later …I enjoy writing, and especially when I can be descriptive with my thoughts and ideas 🙂
      I hope you are well (and Patty too).
      Your blogging buddy
      Carly

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Joe Pasquale !

    Heck, that’s awful ! I suppose I am lucky as I get a single saw tooth frequency in both ears which seems to come on when I am thinking about it. I know what caused it, shooting without ear defenders years ago in the army. They didn’t have them then.

    Have a lovely week Carly 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I know a song that’ll get on your nerves, get on your nerves ……… heehee …… you got me going as well Carly 🙂
        That is one good thing, the ringing in my ears doesn’t really bother me. I do hope that yours goes way once they mend your ear my friend.
        Yes, we are both well as I hope that you are. 🙂 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  6. As I am reading your post, I’m also listening to tinnitus masking sounds via my iPad (city rain to be exact)… I have an omnipresent buzzing and occasional whooshing, but it has gotten better over time. And I totally can agree that alcohol makes it more prominently heard for me. I should know as I drank too much red wine this evening 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Tony,
      Great to hear from you. I’m sorry you also have tinnitus, but it’s good you have found sounds that can mask it. Your wine comment made me smile…I enjoy a glass of wine also, and always wonder after drinking it, when my tinnitus is going wild, if it was worth it – i usually decide that it was 😉
      I hope you are well
      Take care
      Carly

      Like

  7. Hi Carly,

    Felt compelled to write some thoughts here, as I have had almost the exact same thing happen to me.(Me=Male, 46, Australia)
    Sudden hearing loss right ear. Woke up April 4 2018 with ear ringing but could still hear fine.
    Took kids to school, went to work attended a few meetings. By 12pm balance was starting to go. Went straight home saw doctor by 3pm difficulty walking and hearing gone on right side. Got home, vertigo, nausea very bad etc. Tinnitus very bad.
    Next day went to ENT. Viral or blood circulation was the likely cause, although they don’t know really. 2nd ENT said same thing.
    Hearing test showed pretty much 0db on all frequencies. Left ear was fine.
    I said to the ENT a number times – If this damn Tinnitus would stop I might be able to hear something!! LOL.
    Started steroid injections and Prednisone 25mg. 3 weeks and 5 injections later only marginal improvement. Nothing tangible.
    Now 8 weeks later and dizziness all cleared up although a slight/subtle dizzy feeling at times, very minor. Usually when I get up in the morning or make a sudden movement.
    Back at work ( I luckily work in a quiet office environment) and getting on with life and trying to stay positive.
    Physically it’s very tough. Sound separation is gone. Anything above a normal conversation hurts. Cafes and bars are difficult. One ear just gets overloaded. I am now actively avoiding noise.
    Emotionally it has been hard. I have been through the grieveing/dibelief/anger/denial. Now I am in the process of acceptance which will take some time.
    Sleep is unaffected by my tinnitus, luckily. But it’s always there, like yours.
    The cruel thing is I didn’t do anything to cause it (no history of illness, no irresponsible action), it just happened. If I did something to cause this then I could say “ok Max you stuffed up and now you have to live with your actions.”
    I can take comfort however in knowing that I did everything immediately and the treatment was aggressive. So I cannot say “well I should have done more”.
    Started to look into surgical options for future consideration (BAHA, Cochlear etc) but right now I need to rest/adjust/adapt/ etc to this for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Max
      Thank you for reading and for your comment.
      I am so sorry you are going through what sounds very much like a very similar journey to mine.
      I really sympathize with your difficulty with loud noises. When I first lost the hearing in my left ear, I remember finding it difficult to even go outside, as every noise seemed too loud, and caused me pain. However, with time I forced myself to go to cafes, bars, restaurants etc. I live in Madrid where cafe culture is very much part of life. I also love going out to restaurants. With time it has become easier to go out for a coffee or a meal. I can’t say that it’s easy on my ears, but I can tolerate this kind of environment for short times now – enough time to eat a meal 🙂 It has taken me time and perseverance to get to this level of tolerance…I really hope you are able to start introducing more noise back into your life, and are able to enjoy a drink in a bar or a meal in a restaurant.
      I too felt quite angry that I had done nothing to ‘make’ this happen. I am also healthy – I eat well and exercise…
      I would be very interested to know if you decide to pursue a surgical option in the future.
      You sound like you are coping well, and I wish you well with the acceptance stage of the process of dealing with the hearing loss. Remember to be kind to yourself, and rest.
      Feel free to contact me anytime on here, or through my Contact page.
      Take care
      Carly

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  8. Hey Carla, do you ever find that your hyperacusis gives most of your body chronic stiffness or discomfort? I pretty much get fibromyalgia when I don’t do noise treatment every day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Brian. Thank you for reading and for your comment. I often have neck and jaw problems – stiffness and pain, although I’m not sure whether this is connected to my noise sensitivity…interesting to hear you think these issues may be connected…
      Take care
      Carly

      Like

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