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How Tinnitus Changed My Life

Learning to stay calm and live healthy.

By Sue McGaugheyPublished 6 months ago Updated 6 months ago 6 min read
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How Tinnitus Changed My Life
Photo by Amelia Bartlett on Unsplash

It was a happy Wednesday and I just arrived home after one of my best workouts ever. I remember being so excited because I had burned so many calories, sweated like rain and felt that I had just had the best overall workout I had in a long time. I thought to myself though, "that music was super loud today". In reality, the music was loud every day and we worked out in a pretty small space. I never thought anything of it. I just enjoyed my workouts.

The next day I went to work, felt great and decided to unwind with a nice walk in the park. After work I went to the park with the intent of doing a 3 mile walk. As I began down the pathway I felt funny. I had a sudden sharp pain in my left ear. I became dizzy and heard ringing coming from my ear. Previously, I had a little ringing but it always dissipated. This time was different. My ear began ringing with a high pitched sound, I was dizzy and had what felt like a horrible migraine. I went home and laid down with an ice pack and some tylenol. "Maybe I have an ear infection", I thought. Unfortunately, it wasn't an ear ache, it was the beginning of tinnitus.

By Vladislav Muslakov on Unsplash

I finally fell asleep that night but had a hard time staying asleep. I tried using a fan, listening to videos, anything to help me fall asleep but the ring was so loud. When the morning dawned I emailed my doctor right away. She made it sound like it was no big deal. We set up a telephone appointment. I couldn't believe what she said to me when she called, "Your anxiety is out of control". Of course I was having anxiety, this was all new and maddening. She immediately wanted to pump me full of pharmaceuticals to help me calm down. She said that a lot of people with high anxiety fall victim to tinnitus. I refused the drugs. I fought for an appointment with an ENT (Ears, Nose Throat) specialist. They gave me the news that there is zero cure and I'll just have to learn to live with it.

At first I became withdrawn and depressed. Everything in life seemed chaotic. I couldn't go to movie theaters any more and I love movies. I couldn't sit in a restaurant without my head getting dizzy. If this was going to be life, I thought, "I can't do it. I can't live like this. This isn't living." I allowed myself to go to a dark place, but then I looked at my children and grandchildren and realized I had to be my own advocate. I couldn't leave life, I had to live life. I threw away every single pharmaceutical drug the doctors had given me. I found a holistic practitioner who believed in healing with foods (herbs, spices etc). I did my research on all of the reputable sites I could find. I found there was a correlation between anxiety, stress, poor diet and tinnitus. I had so much stress in my life at the time of getting tinnitus, it made sense. I knew I had to teach myself how to live a much quieter and calmer lifestyle.

I started with my diet. I compeletely rid myself of processed foods, fast foods, alcohol and refined sugars. I also decreased my caffeine intake to 1 cup a day and increased my water intake. Alkaline water is great for you too. I drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day. Don't drink it all at once though, that is dangerous for you. I started not skipping meals. I used to always ditch breakfast, skip lunch. My excuse was I was too busy to eat. I was actually just putting more stress on my body. Your body needs fuel and energy. I began meal prepping. I'd have breakfast that included protien and vegetables. Lunch and dinner were the same, meat, fish, vegetables and a small amount of carbs to balance it out. Fresh fruit was always good for a snack. You have to be careful because there are a ton of 'fad' diets out there that people will try to sell you on. Yes, I mean sell. Some people swear they can cure tinnitus but all medical and scientific research agrees there currently is no cure. So don't fall for the scams.

Then I began learning meditation. A friend of mine had tinnitus for 4 years and it suddenly stopped after she attended a 10 day meditation retreat. She's not sure if that is why it stopped but the one consistent thing doctors will tell you is to learn to stay calm and destress. That's the thing about tinnitus, it can last for a few months, a few years or a life time. Some people say there's just stopped one day. Some people say they are habituated to it, which basically means they trained their brain to not think about it. I think I'm in the habituation stage right now. It took a good 4-5 months to get here. Again, each person is different so you have to do what works for you.

Let's talk about hearing aids. I have what is called SHL (sudden hearing loss). The specialists aren't sure what causes it so they will explore with you. You'll get office visits, CT scans, MRIs and most of the time they all come back normal. They do this really to rule out a brain tumor. I immediately asked about hearing aids and the specialist said to wait 6 months first to see how my brain adjusted. I'm almost there. I am making an appointment soon to have a consult with an audiologist to see if a hearing aide may help me. Depending on where you live you can try them out for 30 days and see. If they don't help, you can return them. Hearing aids are quite pricey and do not cure tinnitus however, some people do say the ringing stops when they have the hearing aide in. This is because your brain can now hear the sounds that your hearing was missing. In my case it would be high pitched tones.

Through all of the above, I've learned that the most important things I have to do for myself to live with this diagnosis is 1 - learn to stay calm, 2 - eat healthy, 3 - keep exercising. For me, I actually feel better except for the ringing in my head. I call it my symphony. I make sure I keep exercising, I just found a gym that is quieter. I eat healthier than I did before and meditate and listen to hypnosis tapes on a regular basis. I don't even use a fan or a sound machine on a regular basis. Specialist recommend fans and sound machines to mask the tinnitus. I found they irritate mine so I learned to lull myself to sleep with the natural noise in my brain. I do deep breathing and meditation before bed along with some kind of calming tea or golden milk. I also take magnesium glycinate that helps me stay calm and sleep well.

I hope this article helps tinnitus sufferers in some way. Don't give up hope. Do your research, learn to stay calm and decrease your anxiety. Eat healthy, socialize. Don't give up being active. If I go to a restaurant with family or friends I use filtered earplugs to decrease the noise. I rent movies at home. There are ways around things. Miraculously, after being diagnosed with tinnitus I no longer have high blood pressure because I learned how to live a more calm lifestyle. If you want more information on what helped me, feel free to reach out to me. Leave me a comment and let me know any questions you may have. Don't give up. Keep living your life and keep researching. You got this. Staying calm is the key.

Written by: Sue McGaughey

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About the Creator

Sue McGaughey

I worked 24 years in special education primarily doing behavior management. Writing has always been my passion. I was lead writer for a Lifestyle and Entertainment magazine for 8 years, until they closed during Covid.

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  • James M. Essig6 months ago

    This is a fascinating and outstanding article you wrote Sue! I have learned a lot about tinnitus just reading this article. All you folks who read this article can fully trust Sue McGaughey's account. I've known Sue for several years and know she is a good ethical person and an expert in teaching kids with developmental issues and in .special education primarily doing behavior management. Sue is also a very talented writer and the account of her struggle with tinnitus is genuine.

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