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The sound that should not be

Working late on the evening of November 23, I became aware of a barely audible whine that emerged, on and off, over the usual gentle hum of my computer. Right away, I had a theory on what was causing it: if it wasn’t the new hard drive that I had bought just a few days earlier, it had to be one of the fans in my machine acting up. I put my ear to my computer case, but I couldn’t hear the whine anymore.

Slightly puzzled, I opened up my case, unplugged all the fans and hard drives and started plugging them in, one by one, to isolate the culprit. No luck. Although I could hear the whine now and then, I could not place it.

It was clear that the problem lay somewhere else. I shut down my computer and all the other electronic devices in my room and started listening. The whine was there, clear as day, only now it appeared to be coming from the part of my room where the radiator was. I put my ear to the radiator, but the noise didn’t get any louder. I took a walk around my apartment – I could hear the damn thing in every room! What could it be?

I was out of ideas. My only remaining suspects were the ventilation system in the supermarket next door and the electrical transformers in the basement five floors below me. The problem was that the noise seemed about equally loud in every room, while you’d expect it to get louder as you get closer to the source.

It wasn’t until the next day that a simple experiment with a pair of earplugs and isolating headphones finally revealed the truth: there was a constant noise in my head. I had freaking tinnitus. The next few days were hell for me. Obsessed with the incessant whine I could not get away from, I became a nervous wreck unable to perform even the simplest everyday tasks.

Today, a month later, the sound in my head has not gone away, though it bothers me much less. In my next post, I will share some tips that helped me get over the initial shock and go back to living normally.

9 Comments so far

  • andrew

    That was probably the best article/blog I’ve ever read on tinnitus, from which I also suffer. Personally I found that 4 months of lipoflavinoids and some Nasonex does improve matters, about 50 percent. Amazing how I went through so many of the steps you did. I enjoyed particularly your description of the Loop. Keep me posted.

  • Peter Hallam

    Try and find out if your Tinitus is caused by Wireless Internet / Home Wireless Networks / DECT Phones / Smart Meter – anything that uses Pulsed Microwave Radiation. I am aware of a few people who all say it is worse when they are around wireless.

    BAD NEWS – It’s not reversible… Whats done is done – Pulsed Microwave Radiation has done its work – I am under the impression, that the pulsed microwave radiation sensitizes (or desensitizes I’m not sure which) the cilia in your ear to higher frequencies and that this is one of the causes of Tinnitus in the modern world. Read up. Tinitus seems to be more common in westernized countries (where we have saturation of mobile phone service which you can’t get away from.) After several months without exposure to Wireless Pulsed Microwave Radiation (I am led to believe although I am still looking into it) some people may experience reduced Tinitus.

    See my comment in your next post.

    • Tomasz

      I wouldn’t put much stock in that. People have all sorts of crazy theories on what alleviates their tinnitus. It’s very easy to fool yourself into thinking that your tinnitus is slightly better because of something you did. Besides, if it’s EM waves (which I don’t believe for a second), then you’re screwed. Cell towers are everywhere. Are you going to move to Alaska or start wearing a tinfoil hat?

      • Peter Hallam

        Tinfoil Hat? If it helps, YES. 😉

        The reason I came to this conclusion in relation to EMR and tinnitus aggravation is that, I get up rather early in the morning to write, like 3am. It is always dark, all the neighbors are asleep and basically no one is stirring, not even a mouse. 🙂 It was totally silent, blissful bar the ringing in my ears. I drink a cup of espresso coffee slowly, usually in the dark (I have two kids so this is a big deal being able to finish an entire cup of coffee without interruptions). My tinnitus is usually / always present to a degree. But one morning, whilst it was still dark my neighbour in the unit complex next to mine got up and turned his light on.

        Now don’t go thinking I’m a peeping tom or anything. I was just minding my own business sitting at my desk drinking coffee prior to turning on my computer not even looking in that direction except that the light caught my attention).

        His window was actually closed so I couldn’t see in bar the light behind the curtains. I continued sipping my coffee as before. About a minute after his light came on I got a burst of tinnitus in both ears, a flare up with louder hissing / ringing. I had have experienced this often, the busts of increased ringing before it subsidies down a little. It was nothing new. But hadn’t yet associated it with what comes next.

        A few weeks later it was much hotter and, as often happens, I noticed my neighbours light come except this time his window was open and I could see in. He walked to his desk, reached down behind it, I supposed to turn on a power point, then started his laptop. And less than 30 seconds later, PING, a burst of Tinnitus in both ears.

        I’ve watched this a dozen times since, and every, after he appears to turn on a power point (not just his laptop because it sometime happens prior to turning his laptop on so I assume his wireless router is starting first) I get a burst of Tinnitus.

        Now, before any conclusions are drawn in relation to my own wireless … I don’t have any. No wireless, no DECT phones, no smart meter, nothing. My place is fully wired. The neighbours have wireless in close proximity which is fair enough. And that may account for SOME of my ringing, but the busts of Tinnitus I experience just after he starts up his wireless router and laptop come on top of my current symptoms. I have been observing this for some time, and always very shortly after he flips the switch on his power point and sits down at his laptop I get a surge of Tinnitus.

        Also, its all over the net, the association between Pulsed Microwave Radiaton and Tinnitus. 1,000,000 hits in Google for Wireless and Tinnitus as of March 2013 (although I only looked that up after the experience seeing my neighbour turning on his wireless internet.

        That and my friend who has come to stay says that his Tinnitus is always worse when he come to my place that at his home with less wireless RF.


        You are right though about the Mobile Towers. Not much I can do about that … except wear a Tinfoil Hat 🙂

        • Tomasz

          Interesting. Apparently, it is possible to hear RF waves. Here are some resources about this phenomenon:

          Of course, RF hearing is not technically tinnitus, as it is not a phantom sensation (you’re hearing something real). I’m not sure there are any studies about RF waves causing permanent damage, such as tinnitus. So you may be hearing some transient sounds from your neighbor’s radio transmitters but I’d say it probably isn’t related to your tinnitus. Hearing damage is a much more likely (and well-documented) cause.

          It is also possible that you are hearing actual sounds (some transformer nearby?) or that the flare-up of tinnitus is due to caffeine (if you’re always drinking coffee when your neighbor switches on his equipment).

          Another thing worth noting is that a typical wireless router uses a very low-power transmitter — roughly 1/10th the power of a cell phone transmitter. If you consider the fact that the router (or even laptop) is normally at a much larger (10 times larger?) distance from your head than a cell phone, and that the power density of a radio wave is inversely proportional to the square of the distance, wi-fi devices should be at least 1000 times as safe as phones or cell phone towers. So if I was trying to eliminate RF from my life, I’d worry about wi-fi last.

    • Craig Butcher

      Hi Peter, I have had Tinitus for 10+ years now. It is in my left ear and I have done 90% of my cell phone usage on my right side not my left. I believe mine is related to TMJ. I reached across my body with my left had a few years ago and the volume almost doubled for some reason

  • Hillary

    This is Hillary posting again over 1 year after my “crisis”. I just want to reach out to the new people and let you know it does get better. The weeks following were soooo difficult because of the panic it caused. We went to Disney 2 weeks after the fateful concert and my hearing was so sensitive I had to wear earplugs constantly and I started experiencing new scary crackling symptoms around noise. I couldn’t even watch tv without rubbing my scalp behind my ears to mask the ringing. I went to Walmart with my mom and plugged in every fan just trying to find the fan with the right high pitch frequency. We don’t need all those quiet new fans! I found a loud, obnoxious 5 blade metal fan that did the trick and now travel with it. I would say my ringing is the same as a year ago but something happened after about 2-3 months. My brain was able to ignore it more and more. I try and leave windows open as much as possible because it minimizes the dead silence in a quiet house and when the crickets come out it’s heaven. I don’t even need the fan.

    Most importantly… very, very protective of your ears. ALWAYS have ear protection handy. (little ear plugs will work) The crackling I described is a result of ear trauma and protecting your ears will minimize that symptom. The tinnitus is so much worse after I’m exposed to loud sound. Even my kids make sure I have ear plugs now because loud noise really bothers me.

    Stay calm and optimistic. And never underestimate the power of prayer! It really made a difference for me. Someone mentioned that in her post and I agree wholeheartedly.

  • Ed Bayas

    Had my mild T since April 2013 after I had infected kidney stone removal procedure where I was given antibiotics Through IV. Mine was mild and like Tomazs’ could only be heard at night and in very quiet places. Since I was a nervous wreck I went through a wild roller coaster for about three months but handle it on the fourth after reading this article and comments. I realized my case not so scary. I was going very well until I got my flu vaccine lasts Wednesday after which I started to hear other sounds after two days. I am panicking again. I am hoping the sounds are temporary and go away like the intrusive sounds I had at the start of my T in April. Last night I has do take klonopin 1/2 of 0.5 mg plus melatonin. Ireland me but barely slept. At abt 2 am I decided to take sleeping pills so I can sleep. I slep for 2 hrs. And advice experiences you can share would be appreciated.

  • Jane O'Mahoney

    A small fan in your room is a good masker. The most important thing is not to panic. There have been several people who have recommended Lipoflavinoids. I haven’t tried them yet.

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