A few months ago, I was awakened several times in the middle of the night. By the third time, I figured out through my sleepy haze that I had tinnitus clanging in my head. Loud enough to wake me. Oh great, I thought as I rolled over. A new symptom.

Thankfully, it has never been loud enough to bother me during the daytime. Twice when I came home to a still, quiet house I could hear it, but otherwise I hear it only at night, when I lay down in bed and that particular, heavy silence settles over me. I normally wear earplugs at night, and those make the tinnitus seem louder because the ambient noise is muffled and no longer competes with my internal soundtrack. (The first few nights I took out the earplugs while sleeping!) The tinnitus has two main pitches, a C# and a G# an octave and half higher.  The G# was sustained, but the lower C# has an annoying Morse Code-type rhythm.  The irregular pattern is incredibly distracting.  I was often aware of an extremely high hiss as well.


C# and…G#. Fantabulous.

I phoned my otoneurologist to find out if I should be worried. Since my hearing was stable and I had no new symptoms other than the tinnitus, he said not to worry and sent me on my way. I’m still not sure what I think about that. There is so much more that he could have said that would have been helpful–but more on that in another post.

I found some message boards online and was reassured to see that many people posted about tinnitus “flares.” This mirrors my experience. It got worse and better, louder and quieter, simpler and more complex over time. I didn’t find any clear correlations. One night I had an entirely different sustained pitch, and one morning–during a time when the tinnitus was only one pitch and relatively quiet at night–I woke on my left side with the familiar C#-G# clanging in my head again.

I’m guessing the tinnitus is here to stay, but there is a part of me that hopes it is triggered by the unusual work stress I am facing, and that it will all go away once the work problems resolve. Here’s hoping!