Coping - from dawn and on
Coping. Sometimes it is easy. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's downright hard. Sometimes it feels darn impossible. Sometimes you feel like this huge doberman has made you his bestest friend. Meaningful relationships to him involve your legs and his teeth. You cope already. You say "nice kitty." You pat him on the head. The fangs retract. He waddles off. Yeah, sure. . .
To some tinnitus [T] is like the doberman. To some even bigger, like a hippo with an attitude. To some it's smaller, like one of them tiny little fuzzball yappy critters with the red ribbons on the ears. Like I said, sometimes coping is easy, sometimes it's not. Sometimes it's downright hard, sometimes it feels darn impossible. I cannot cope tinnitus away. I only do coping. I don't do magic.
When did it start? I wonder. Did I get it from that soccer ball on my head when I was about seven? Or from that fist, or that high fever, or that face-plant off the bicycle, or that whatever? Racking my brain. Blanks. Lots of blanks. Knowing exactly when, where and why may be important. But, suppose you know for a fact it was that one day in October, four years ago. Or whenever, then what?
- Will it help? - No.
- Could I have avoided it? - Maybe.
- Can I blame someone? - Possibly.
- Can't I do something? - Probably.
Someone told you, or someone might tell you "you'll have to learn to live with it." Profoundness in surround sound. Bedside manners 101, no doubt. Someone told you, or someone might tell you "it's all in your head." No kidding eh, totally deep dude.
You decide. You decide on brutal honesty. You hate to admit it. But face it, you already are "living with it," else you wouldn't be reading this - would you. No matter how rotten, no matter how loud, no matter how piercing, no matter how brainfrying the sounds are: they are not killing you - are they? The sounds are not making you shoot up into the sky, come straight down and splat you into the ground like Wiley Coyote - are they. They are not making your brains explode all over the moon and ooze back down over the North Pole - are they. They are nothing like what the special effects people in Hollywood is still dreaming of, are they. And yes, it really is "all in YOUR head," isn't it. No one else can hear you - can they. The neighbours can't phone the cops to complain about it - can they. They can't charge you tax on it - can they. They can't tell you to hand it over - can they, don't you wish though. . .
Just so we're talking about the same thing: "to cope - to contend with difficulties
and act to overcome them" (American Heritage Dictionary). Yes you've already
"learned," haven't you. Guess what? You now are coping. Maybe not quite the way you like. But you got the first part of coping down pat. Pat your self on the back, you're well on the way to being an Expert Coper.
You know your difficulty. You fully realize "you got it." Next comes the harder part: acting to overcome it. To properly do that, you need to figure out first where you are at right now:
- 1 - how long have you had tinnitus?
- 2 - what kind of sounds can you hear?
- 3 - how much does it bother you?
- 4 - can you explain your tinnitus to someone else?
- 5 - have you told others about it?
- 6 - have you told your doctor?
- 7 - have you tried medical treatment?
Back to brutal honesty. How long have you had your tinnitus? You realize you may have to cope with it for a little while longer. Maybe a big while longer. If it has not been that long, there may be a chance it goes away all by itself. Don't ask yourself what does he mean by "not that long." Don't ask me what do I mean by "not that long." I am also brutally honest - I don't know. I do know wondering about it too hard leads to big expectations. Big expectations lead to big disappointments. Big disappointments lead to depression. Depression is the number one all-time biggie come tinnitus. When you are depressed you shut out the world. When you shut out the world, there's only you. When there's only you, there only is you - you and T. Enough T for you and T for - enough already. You get the picture.
If depression equals you minus the world, then you plus the world equals the opposite: good mood, better spirit, positive vibes - whatever you want to call it. Like it or not, your mind, or spirit, or whatever, is a limited entity. There's only so much it can do at once. The world has tons of things to see and do. Doing things and seeing things takes attention. The more attention you spend on other things, the less attention there's left to be spent on tinnitus.
Devoting your attention to somethings can get you really "lost in the world." When "you're gone," (yeah I know, pretty tacky) you can be totally oblivious to the world. Take a look at some successful "goners:"
- the musician: eyes closed, wailing away on a sax
- the reader: curled up in another space and time
- the athlete: darting towards the finish line
- the teenager: parents. . ?
- the driver: speed limit. . ?
- the fisher: the water, the bobber. . .
- the lover: the passion. . .
- the couch potato: the dish, the remote control. . .
- the tax inspector: innocent until proven guilty. . .
Tuning out, or switching off is the key. I'm sure you have, or can find, something you can really get into. What I can really get into is music and reading, the world around me just disappears. The flames of a campfire, or even a candle, suck me right up. Maybe fire is something that appeals to the animal in us, but it sure does the job for me. Another one like that is the shower. I know I've mentioned it before, but the rushing of the water - soothing and relaxing, especially in the dark. In fact, it totally masks out my tinnitus. The freudoids might have some thoughts about getting back into the womb and all, but let's not worry about that here ok - we're talking about things that work. Water seems to be where it's at for a lot of folks. How about swimming, especially under water? Again, tinnitus is no match for all the gurgling, bubbling and splashing. You don't have to do a thing, no trying to put up, no trying to cope - just enjoy, that's all there's to it.
I'm sure you have already gone along the medical path to try and get relief, or have you? That means you must have told at least your doctor about your problem, or have you? Telling someone about your tinnitus can be pretty scary. What will they ever think when you explain them about the whooshes, or the whistles, or the buzzing, or the whatever. They might think you're pretty weird or something. If you have not told anyone so far - do it - do it now. Tell the folks around you. Tell your physician. How do you bring up the subject? You just do. If you are really worried about feeling stupid, have some written material handy and show it. It might not be the most suitable subject to bring up on a party though. Then again, if it's a noisy party and you are stepping outside for a moment to get "some fresh air," there's a good opportunity.
Some cases are actually treatable. Tinnitus is not incurable for every one. Maybe you might be one of these lucky ones. Maybe in your case it's something really simple. Maybe all you got is a "bunny in the ear." Then again, maybe you got a whole colony of 'em darn fluffy tailed thumpers. You still try, ok! There's gotta be hope. Just don't set your self up for a big disappointment. It is not always possible, but try to minimize your exposure to tinnitus fertilizer:
- things that depress you: news, politics, arguments. See depression above.
- learn how to relax properly. Our local college offers a night course on relaxation. I took it a long time ago, it is fabulous. Read books on relaxation, meditation, self-hypnosis, anything that teaches you to control your mind's focus. In this case of course, away from tinnitus.
- noise: avoid loud places like concerts, races, movie theaters etc. unless you wear earplugs. Buying a new appliance or power tool? When you're in the store, plug them in and listen! The noise level should be one of the most important features you look for. A while ago I posted an article where I mentioned "criminal engineering." I've seen vacuum cleaners in Europe and Japan - almost silent! Window air-conditioners in Japan - almost silent! Power tools in Europe - almost silent! Compared to the stuff on the market here in North America, manufacturers should be embarrassed. Look at the specs of a hairdryer, what's the most important thing they advertise - how many Watts. You want to know how well the thing can dry your hair folks, not whether you can use it to fry eggs.
"You gotta have it to know it," recently was the headline of one of the postings on the "alt.support.tinnitus" newsgroup on the Internet. Thinking along these lines easily inflicts self-pity. Self-pity is a first class ticket to depression. A doctor doesn't need broken legs to know how to fix someone else's. Many medical people are top notch experts and really know their stuff. Yet, I know, somehow it is easier to talk to someone who also has it. Moral support can be extremely important. Your tinnitus level might be high enough to severely affect your daily life. If you are considering drastic measures like harming yourself stop reading right now - run to the nearest medical center. If you are thinking about drugs, I understand. But you know you'll only invite bigger problems - tinnitus will soon be a fond memory. You don't want to be that good a "goner."
What is my T like? It's a no-frill high-pitched squealing sound, a mix of about three audio frequencies: 2,300, 4,500 and 8,200 Herz. The latter one is the loudest, all with a constant pitch and volume. The volume is nicely above background level. In a quite room it measures about 60 Decibels [dB]. But - it likes center stage and does not like to get drowned out. It takes quite a bit of volume to "hush me up."
I measured the frequencies with a computer program I wrote. It works on PC, or compatible, type computers. If your noises are high-pitched frequencies you might like to try it for your self. It's a small file and you can download it in about thirty seconds or less. I will not cure your tinnitus, but you might find out just how "good" a beeper you are. You won't be out-of-pocket either, the program is freeware. Click here if you want to download it now.
Here's hoping we all get "teed-off" real soon...
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This article was first published in September 1996 on the alt.support.tinnitus newsgroup on the internet and is Copyright 1996 Bart Veerman.
Copyright ©2001 Bart Veerman