Tinnitus

My Story

Many years ago I was sick with what I thought was a bad cold.  After a couple days it seemed like more than a cold, in fact it felt like what I imagined pneumonia would feel like due to a heaviness in my lungs.  The cause was a classic sick building situation.  I was driven to a friend’s doctor, told him I thought I had pneumonia, he took an x-ray and said I was fine.  Two weeks later the doctor’s office phoned and said they looked at the x-ray again (must have been a slow day) and decided I had viral pneumonia.  There is no known cure for viral pneumonia.  Eventually I got over it and life goes on.

About 6 months later I was aware of a persistent ongoing noise that did not reflect noises in my environment.  A doctor I had seen before recommended seeing a neurologist who did a bunch of tests and gave me the bad news:  viral pneumonia had stripped the myelin sheath off my nerves (some, not all, I presume), leaving me with lifelong tinnitus and some physical strength asymmetries.  Everything else is back to normal. There is, of course, no known cure for this variety of tinnitus. Or for damaged myelin nerve sheaths.

A Possible Solution for Some

Some 10 to 50 million Americans reportedly have tinnitus, depending on who you believe.  Most of it is caused by physical damage to delicate ear structures from work conditions, loud music, explosions (gunfire, airbags going off…) and other loud noises. A single loud noise or loud noise over a period of time may be the instigator.  Inside the cochlea there are tiny hairs that are easily bent out of shape by loud noises.  Thus tinnitus.

Anatomy of the human ear.

There is no known cure for this variety of tinnitus, either.  Maybe.  For those whose tinnitus was caused by noise, I do have a suggestion.  (And I’ve tried a lot of things.)  At one point I investigated a delightful and very skilled Chinese acupuncture specialist who said he MIGHT be able to help, but it would take several treatments, it would hurt, and he could make no guarantees.  In the past I’ve had amazing experience with acupuncture resolving pain and speeding up injury recovery from torn muscles.  I was willing to do anything to regain some quiet.  We tried it.  The needles went into the web between my thumb and index finger, which would appear to have been the LI 4 point in the diagram below. (Not completely sure.  I recall it being more in the web than in the hand itself.)

I have never felt pain like that… unbelievable… tears flowed from my eyes like a faucet.  In the end it didn’t work.  He had been able to cure some people this way, but I now suspect they had a different underlying problem from my situation.  In any event, that’s my main contribution to the discussion of tinnitus. (A solution that didn’t work for me, but might work for you.)

Distant Solutions and Immediate Coping

Science News magazine/online recently (1-25-2010) had an article on how prions might be the proteins that cause the myelin sheath to grow and possibly regrow.  That gave me a bit of new hope that a cure might one day be found for my type of tinnitus sufferer.

http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/55594/title/Prion_protein_is_not_all_bad

A reader of this humble blog told me that you have to be a Science News subscriber to be able to read the above link.  I apologize to any and all who have been inconvenienced by this.  To briefly summarize the article, ” A new study suggests that the normal form of prion protein helps maintain the insulation that speeds electrical signals along nerve fibers.” Prion proteins are known to cause bad things like mad cow disease and wasting in deer, as well as a similar problem in people.  The article goes on: prions “may direct cells called Schwann cells to wrap around neurons and produce myelin, a type of insulation that aids electrical communication between nerve cells.” While there’s more, the key to me is that it may be possible to regrow that myelin sheath. However, it is July, 2011 as I type this and I haven’t encountered anything about further progress. The study in the article was done at the University of Zurich, although a comment from someone at the Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, NH leads me to hope that possibly some work in this area could be ongoing in the USA.

It turns out there are many more causes for tinnitus than I imagined.  I came across a blog entry

http://www.toahealthybody.com/what-causes-tinnitus/

that listed 10 causes, and none of them included viral pneumonia.  I wrote a subset of this entry as a comment.  So there you are.  There’s also a William Shatner video on the web where he asks for donations to the American Tinnitus Association.  I did a search for tinnitus on Twitter but was disappointed to see that some comments were meant to draw you to sites selling products I don’t think would do any good.  But, again, my problem may not be your problem.  WebMD has a thorough treatment of the subject starting here,

http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/ringing-in-the-ears-tinnitus-topic-overview

The only information of value to me in the WebMD article is that I must reluctantly admit when I cut down on coffee, the tinnitus is less bad than on the days when I drink 6 or 8 cups.  (Oh, come on, you know those days…. )

To those of you suffering with tinnitus, my sympathies.  I find it best to keep busy and distracted.  Music helps.

http://www.medpagetoday.com/Neurology/GeneralNeurology/17709

But I think music always helps.  To quote one of my favorite people, Frank Zappa: “ Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is the best.”  (I have that on a t-shirt actually.)  He also said “Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny.”  Gotta love that guy.  Peace.

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3 responses to “Tinnitus

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Tinnitus « Euonymous Redux -- Topsy.com

  2. Sadly, this link doesn’t work for those who are not subscribers of Scince News:

    http://www.sciencenews.org/view/generic/id/55594/title/Prion_protein_is_not_all_bad

    Perhaps you could briefly summarize the article for us?

    • Julie, I hadn’t realized Science News would not let me provide a link to their articles. I am a subscriber and have been forever (really). It’s one of my most trusted information sites. Having said all that, I will go back and edit the post to give folks the sense of the article. I do check the links, but since they work for me, I’m not sure how else to verify that someone else might have a problem. Oh, well. I’ll ask the Science News folks.

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