It's in My Head

For a nearly a decade now, I'd lose sleep some nights because I thought the port was too noisy. Port of Nelson is known to operate forklifts and cranes overnight when they load/unload large ships; it's a common complaint. Except Trish, whose parents live overlooking the port, said my house is facing the wrong way so I shouldn't be hearing the port. Then a staff at my gym told me she used to live a few houses away from our place, but her husband couldn't sleep because of the noise from a saw mill a few km away, so for the last two years I blamed the saw mill. Except when we drive by the place on weekends, they are shut closed, and I wondered if they actually worked overnight some times. Then last Christmas Day, I could not shut down the noise and figured it couldn't be the saw mill. As well, in the last few years, when we were in the country where silence should have been deafening, (and it's easy to find places like that in New Zealand), I felt as if I brought the forklift on holiday with us.

About a month ago, I was complaining about this to Nancy, and she thought I might have tinnitus. I had never heard of it until then, but once I learned of this -itus, everywhere I looked people are talking/writing about it. So I signed up for a hearing test and had it done this morning, and found out I do indeed have tinnitus, and this is something that's largely inside my head, caused by age-related hair loss.

It's like this. Inside our inner ear, which is often depicted like a swirly seashell, is a thin tube filled with fluid, and there are tiny hairs growing on the inside of this tube. These hairs vibrate and tell the brain what we are hearing. (Ummm... can't remember what the ear drum does relative to the hairs, but the drum probably causes vibration of the fluid in the tube??) We loose the tiny hairs naturally as we grow older, and when gaps appear on the inside of the tube, sometimes the brain compensates by making up noises. It's like phantom pain of a severed limb. Here's a picture, but without any hair.

This is caused by physiological change, but can to a certain extent be reduced or ignored. The audiologist (Gill in pink) recommended that I play music or have the radio on at a low volume, but what I like the best is silence, which doesn't work very well. She laughed because for the last few months, on the odd mornings when I didn't hear the forklift, I got worried and listened for it, and almost felt relieved to find the annoying thing. Tinnitus goes hand in hand with depression, insomnia, anxiety, etc., so I've had the whole package.

I borrowed this machine that's supposed to create low-volume noises, just enough to make the forklift not dominate my nights, but she told me not to wear ear plugs, because they make me concentrate more of the darned thing. And from her reading, there has been no definitive food-noise link substantiated, but individual patients have found foods which trigger the noise. Said giving up caffeine seems to help a lot of people, so I could try that for three weeks if I so wished.

The good news is, we don't have to move house. The bad news is, I'm loosing hair in places I didn't even know I owned. And there is no hair-loss treatment for the inner ear.

Oh, and as to my hearing itself, nothing wrong with it; actually very good for my age group. Which means when Ben mumbles, which he does a lot, it's his problem, not mine.


Carol said...

Meg, I have a good friend in Sydney who has bad tinitus related to meuniers disease and she finds salt is a major problem for her. She can never improve her condition but if she eats salt she gets much worse. Don't know if that's any help to you. So sorry to hear that's what the noises are - my grandmother had it and my son gets it when he takes ibuprofin. I guess you'll have to figure out what helps you as you go. Carol

Meg said...

That's good information, Carol. Thank you!

While Dr Cabot's liver cleansing diet was all the rage, I went without milk, coffee/tea and chocolate for about nine months, and I might have felt better - I can't remember - but I emotionally felt "clean". And I learned that yes, I can live without chocolate if I so chose.

For a long time, I added no salt to my cooking or at the table, because we as Japanese get too much salt from miso and soy sauce, but I've noticed that in the last 2 or 3 years, I've been wanting saltier food, and have possibly been going grinder-happy with rock salts, so I might ease up on it a little.

Anonymous said...

Meg, we have to stop sharing these things! I have a nasty case of tinnitis. It didn't help that I tried to work in an indoor pool, I suppose.

My thyroid is wonky and that makes everything harder. I bet it's connected, but there's no research yet because nothing to treat it means no money to fund the research. Grrr.

Let's share something lovely besides the exhibit. I am going to make up some yummy chocolate scrub. Here's the recipe:

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup powered cocoa

Mix it in a bowl and slather on. The oil makes it slippery, so be careful in the tub/shower. Also, the cocoa gets everywhere and leaves disturbing stains on the towels. If not for that, I would use this gorgeous stuff ceaselessly. Because it's a sugar scrub, not salt, there's no owies when you come across a nick.

There. Make yourself a batch, slather it on, and enjoy.

Meg said...

Is this for real? Do you mean, we don't eat this? Is this fattening? I've never heard of anything like this. Won't the sugar melt?


Anonymous said...

I take my last comment back.....I am inspired by nature!

Your comments on the inner ear lead my brain to imagining a huge fiber sculpture twisting and turning. Vibrating and flowing. I see mohair twist for the inner ear, plastic plainweave for the ear drum, and Cally's undulating shrinkage experiments for the eustachian tubes.

I see it all...now if I could wick away the image and save it for a rainy day or another artist.....

Yes Meg, nature inspires me as long as it is on a very very very small scale.

THanks for the visual gymnastics!

Meg said...

Man, you ARE an artist by practice, Lynne. I never would have connected the inner ear with sculpture, or art, or anything other than... middle ear. Blow me away, I'm glad we're just sitting here staring at the screens because we're a bit too tired to go to bed... You are a good influence on me, my dear.

Anonymous said...

OK, I confess, I have not yet made up my batch. Yes, it's for real and deeeee-lish on the skin and soul.

DH gets some for Fathers Day as well as a new friend who could use some love.

One thing I miss from the job I just left was the pacts I would make with a colleague. I would vow that before I saw her next, I would do a small, specific thing to care for myself.

I offer the recipe in that spirit of self care. Seriously, it does not melt, the oil helps release and the sugar sloughs off the old stuff. Use dark towels. Use your imagination and laugh with me, but that's a tough stain to remove!

Meg said...

Wow, so it's for real. I need to go get some white sugar - we don't use that except when I bake - and cocoa - but will do, and make sure we have most of it washed off when we come out - or go buy dark towels. Yum, I love old towels.