Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ring! Ring! Hello? Your Ear Speaking

Sometimes it may seem that my blog is mainly a catalogue of medical complaints. Well, this spot is all about traveling through the senior years, after all. Along the way, you usually pick up some "hitchhikers" in the form of unwanted medical issues. The secret of happy aging may lie in dealing with them calmly and efficiently, and dispatching them when possible.

My latest, which became more pronounced about a month ago, is a ringing or buzzing sound in the ears, the medical term for which is tinnitus (TIN-ih-tus). Let me say upfront that my authority for any information I present tonight is the Mayo Clinic, a source I greatly respect. I used to put WebMD in that category; however, recently they have taken a big government grant to promote implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act. That promotional role makes them suspect in my book.

Anyway, tinnitus can be so difficult to deal with that some people seek counseling or support groups. By all means, do so if it is bothering you to an extreme degree. There is help out there. For my own part, I am perhaps fortunate in that I have dealt with inner-ear problems off and on for much of my adult life, so I am not freaked out by the symptoms.

At one time, perhaps 30 or 40 years ago, my inner-ear balance problems were so great that I had dizzy spells and had to sit at the outside seat on a back row in case I needed to stagger unnoticed out of church or a meeting quickly. A few months before my heart surgery, I had such a dizzy spell at home that I could't stand up and my family actually had an ambulance take me to the ER. There, my heart and other vitals checked out fine, and the ER doctor figured it was my inner-ear thing acting up again. To be honest, I think I had a panic attack that worsened the inner-ear symptoms. Now that I know what to expect, I can use relaxation techniques and cope.

A lot can be written about tinnitus, and I think I will save some of it for later. But let me mention some of the home remedies I have found. One is the use of masking sound that makes me forget all about it. Right now, for instance, I am writing this while listening to good bluegrass music on on iTunes. This remedy is available 24/7 and a most pleasurable recourse it is. In addition, for $20 I purchased a bedside sound machine from which I can choose among such sounds as the ocean waves crashing, a summer's night sounds, rain, thunder storms, and others. This little machine has been a Godsend. Whether my ears are ringing loudly or softly, I sleep much better with these soothing sounds. Even when my current episode subsides, I think I will use the sound machine as a sleeping aid.

Because stress can aggravate the problem, various relaxation techniques can help. Although I haven't had training in biofeedback, I believe it could help. Merely by coaxing myself into completely relaxing in my recliner (unclenching my teeth, taking deep breaths), I can feel the ringing subside somewhat. Another technique is to cover your ears with both hands, fingers pointed upwards, and thump your index fingers on your noggin 40 times. It usually makes the sound subside for a while.

My favorite remedy, though, is that bluegrass I've got going right now!

                                                         © Robert G. Holland  2013

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