You Can Overcome Your Tinnitus
Stephen M. Nagler, M.D.
[In the spring of 1997, I was asked by the American Tinnitus Association to give a series of lectures in California. The following remarks closed one of those lectures. I have been asked for reprints on several occasions, and my comments were subsequently reproduced in the ATA publication Tinnitus Today.]
I would like to address those of you in the audience with tinnitus - specifically those of you for whom tinnitus is severe enough to significantly impact your lives.
The American Tinnitus Association has asked me to develop a presentation about "the personal experience," but since I prefer not to dwell on my own past struggles with tinnitus, I have respectfully declined.
I would, however, like to make an observation or two.
I am sure that all of you who suffer with tinnitus know individuals who say, "Oh yea, I hear noises in my ears sometimes, but I just ignore them - and you should, too." Your (mental) response is, "This guy doesn't have a clue."
I am sure that you know very well-meaning individuals who say - in a reassuring tone, "I had tinnitus. It really bothered me for a while, but I learned to live with it, and so will you." Your response is, "That guy may have had tinnitus, but he doesn't have MY tinnitus. There's tinnitus ... and there's damn tinnitus ... and I've got damn tinnitus." Right? Have you all been there?
Well, let me tell you something. I know what it's like not to be able to fall asleep at night because of the noise of a jet turbine in my head. I've been there.
I know what it's like to be incredibly exhausted in the afternoon following a restless night ... but to not want to take even a brief nap, because I knew I'd wake up with twice the roar I started with. I've been there.
I know what it's like to see the audiologist's eyes practically fall out of his head during tinnitus loudness testing because he's thinking, "Now this is impressive."
I know what it's like to want to beat my head against the wall because of the noise.
I know what it's like for the idea of putting food to my mouth to cause my stomach to knot up with nausea because of the trains going by in my head.
I know what it's like to be an adult male in his late forties and want to put my head on my 80-year-old mother's lap so she can rub it and make things quiet ... and I know what it's like to see tears in her eyes because she can't help. I've been there.
I know what it's like to want to die.
I know what it's like to see a loving wife sick with worry and fear.
And I know what it's like to just about fall apart when a five-year-old son looks at his father's ears and says, "Daddy, I wish I could just reach in there with my fingers and pull that bad noise out so you could be happy again." You see, I've been there, too.
So I think I know damn tinnitus.
And I'm here to tell you that you can overcome it. The ladies and gentlemen who are addressing you today have dedicated a considerable amount of their professional lives to assisting tinnitus sufferers in overcoming tinnitus and in taking charge of their lives again. And the health care professionals next to you in the audience are doing the same. And ATA is helping numerous investigators in obtaining funds to press on with high quality needed research. You can overcome your tinnitus. I know. I've been there.
Dr. Stephen Nagler
Atlanta Tinnitus Consultants, LLC