Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Meniere's In Your Ears Is No Fun

The American Tinnitus Association has deemed the week of May 18th to May 24th Tinnitus Awareness Week. They say that ten to fifteen percent of Americans are afflicted with tinnitus, or "ringing" in the ears. Although it is described as ringing it can be hissing, buzzing, roaring, whistling, and humming. It can be as soft as a whisper and as loud as a freight train.

While it often follows exposure to a loud noise, it can occur for other reasons. In my case, that reason was Meniere's Disease.

Tinnitus makes it hard to sleep, concentrate, have a conversation, and hear in a crowd. Often just trying to relax is a chore because you always hear the susurration in one or both ears.

My journey into tinnitus hell started innocuously enough. One day on my way to work I felt a little dizzy and my ear started ringing. The world turned a quarter, then stopped. I thought, "Well, that was weird". But my ear continued to ring. About ten years later the attacks were so bad that I spent a year on steroids then decided, with my ear, nose, and throat doctor, to have surgery to remove my right inner ear.

By attack I mean that I would get so dizzy that the entire world would spin and I would lose my balance, fall down, and throw up. Many times I went to the emergency room because I couldn't get it to stop.

Still, even though the surgery stopped the attacks, I suffer from tinnitus in my right ear. Sometimes it is a whisper, sometimes it is a freight train, but it is always there.

Before all this occurred, I used to sail. I delivered new sailboats from Myrtle Beach, SC to the British Virgin Islands and West Indies and Bahamas and worked on private boats up and down the eastern seaboard. In all that time I took care of dozens of people who were seasick. That's where you can't stand straight and you throw up. I always felt so bad for those afflicted but I never once felt seasick.

I had some wonderful people who helped me in my times of need when I was having the attacks. I think it was my karma for having taken such good care of those that were seasick. I am so glad I took the extra time to make them feel better.

The next time someone tells you that their ears are ringing, please don't dismiss it as a character flaw. Tinnitus is a very real problem that afflicts so many dear souls. Thank you.


  1. Oh, I am so, so sorry. I never knew you suffered from tinnitus. I did some reading into it a few years ago, and I realize what kind of hell it must be to go through hearing that sound for every waking moment in your life.

    I think you are a wonderful person, Mary, and it's no surprise that you have people around you who are eager to help you. I wish you all the very best

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Mathew. Yes, it is a bit of hell but you just have to learn to deal with it. It can be maddening at times, and I don't need any help in that direction! I appreciate your support.

  2. I feel for you Mary. It sounds like yours is worse than mine, but I have had it for years too; constant ringing. Most of the time, I can let it be in the background, and am unaware of it, but it seems to have gotten worse, and music (listening and playing guitar), is the most important thing in my life, so I worry about it; it definitely detracts from my enjoyment of the thing I love most. But the attacks you describe are far worse.

    1. Oh, Greg, my heart goes out to you. Having to deal with tinnitus and playing music must be so hard! Music often offers me a respite from the constant ringing, but there it is as soon as the music stops. I hope yours doesn't get any worse.