Recently, ears have been on my mind. A cluster of symptoms for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has congregated in that area of my head and they can really get in the way.
In 1992 my CFS debut was ushered in by weeks of earaches and swollen glands. Just a vicious cold, I thought. But these nuisances soon paled as cognitive and neurological dysfunction bloomed. After six weeks all symptoms disappeared, including earaches and swollen glands.
During those weeks I became excruciatingly sensitive to sound. Small noises overwhelmed me and I needed silence like I needed air. I began to experience tinnitus. When other CFS symptoms would build, so would the roaring in my ears. As other symptoms receded, so did the wall of noise.
This pattern repeated whenever I'd catch a cold for the next seven years.
When I went chronic with CFS in 1999, earaches and swollen glands would come and go, but were never gone for long. Tinnitus and hypersensitivity to all sound were mainstays.
We had two battery-operated clocks in our living room. My husband Alan removed their batteries when their ticking drove me out of the room.
I burst into tears one day when a new thing for our computer emitted periodic grumbling noises. Al found a way to stop it, because otherwise I was a prisoner in my bedroom, unable to join the family at all.
In 2004, after weeks of earaches and waves of dizziness, I got hit with vertigo on our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. The vertigo left me disoriented and hardly able to move. I was in bed 20 hours a day with seasickness.
After four months I could get around the house and go for short walks. But vertigo has been with me to a lesser degree from my anniversary to today.
I've noticed when I'm rushed or stressed, or even just concentrating hard, congestion, pressure and white noise in my ears builds to a crescendo. And with it arises a fragmentation of my thinking ability. As the stressor recedes, so does the bafflement in my ears and brain. And as the vertigo and thickness in my ears has diminished over the years, my ability to think clearly has increased accordingly.