My name is Lex Amores. I’m 43 years old and from the Philippines. My first contact with hyperacusis and tinnitus was when I was 17 years old in 1998. I was cleaning a rain water tank at home. I was inside the tank, which was already empty, and its metal cover accidentally fell and blasted a loud, impulse noise. Since then I acquired permanent, moderate tinnitus and hyperacusis. After that incident, I went to an ENT who told me that I experienced an acoustic trauma, and I was prescribed Vitamin B complex to try. I was feeling better afterwards, but that was likely due to my noise avoidance — keeping in quiet environments.
Despite this trauma, I was still living a pretty normal life. I learned to live with tinnitus and I was able to ignore it. Even with the hyperacusis, I was able to navigate life pretty normally. But in 2003, after playing at a local gig without any hearing protection, I woke up one morning and felt some numbness in my ears. My hearing was also a little muffled. I also noticed that there were now more sources of sound that were causing me discomfort. This was my first worsening. I always loved music and wanted to play live. However, it was clearly a bad decision.
Despite my first setback in 2003, I was still able to live pretty normally, except for a few things that I could no longer do anymore. I couldn’t go near loud speakers or do karaoke events. I had to quit the band. I couldn’t go to movie theaters. And I couldn’t be around busy streets with vehicle horns and revving motorcycles for that long. But when I discovered earplugs around 2004-2005, that made me able to easily navigate again in noisy places, like busy streets and public markets. I was using the Speedo silicone earplugs then (and I’m still using those these days as an alternative).
For 15 years, since I discovered earplugs in 2005, I was able to navigate life. I could commute, work, and function normally, until a major setback happened 2 years ago in 2020. I was standing in front of a medical store — waiting for my spouse to pick me up — when a man suddenly pulled the store’s rollup door down. It was made of aluminum and steel. He pulled it so hard and so abrupt that the sound felt very painful, like it damaged something inside my ears. I thought he intended to pull a prank on me or something, not knowing that it would hurt me due to my vulnerable hearing condition; and unaware that it could change my life forever. This was the worst misfortune in my life, as my earplugs were not inserted.
On the way home, after that unfortunate event, I noticed I could no longer tolerate the sound of the tires anymore. The horns and revving motorcycles were not just causing discomfort — they were now hurting my ears. Now, the sound of a barking dog triggers a stabbing pain sensation inside my ears. The clanking of dishes and silverware are both painful, and the humming sound of air conditioning is too much, and doesn’t allow me to fall asleep. The severity level of my hyperacusis and tinnitus are now taking a massive toll on me.
Fast forwarding to these days, my condition has gone from bad to worse. I am extremely limited and incapacitated in so many ways. Things like going to malls and dining in restaurants are now impossible. I had to stop a lot of outdoor activities like jogging, picking up groceries, taking my son to school, and a lot of other things. A lot of those responsibilities now fall on my spouse. We sometimes use courier delivery services to avoid the need of going outside. Talking on the phone with my first-born, 10-year-old son, who lives with my parents and elder sister, is also very difficult now. I can still drive, but it’s hard and I get lingering ear pains for days afterwards. While driving, I will sometimes let go of the steering wheel to push my plugs in, or quickly put the muffs on when there’s an incoming ambulance, revving bikes, or buzzing vehicles. I can’t tolerate prolonged wearing of ear plugs and ear muffs, as it creates a pressure in my ears and causes vertigo. My spouse, second son, and I sometimes drive late at night, when the roads are calmer, to pick up some takeout food and eat it in the car. I do this to feel somewhat alive and normal.
These days, I stay in my room the majority of the time. We bought some plastic forks, knives, and spoons, as they’re less abrasive. I also eat alone because normal conversations with my spouse and 4 year old are too painful to listen to, and my own voice is, too. I have to be in a room alone most of the time. When I watch videos on my laptop, I use closed captions and only a very low amount of volume sometimes. I am thankful that I’m still able to keep my work-from-home job, which keeps me and my family afloat. During Zoom meetings, I set the headset volume to the very minimum, just enough for me to understand the conversations and not hurt my ears at the same time. Zzzquil sleeping pills have become a staple to assist me in falling asleep. As soon as I wake up and hear the sound of a shutting door, conversations, or kitchen sounds, I immediately feel a burning sensation in my ears. Pain radiates to the back of my neck and tinnitus spikes to a static sound on my left ear, and a high pitch tone on the right ear.
Every day is a tiring job to keep myself protected from impulse noise. Even in this room alone, isolation is still a tiring job. I hope and pray that one day soon, I, and the rest of the hyperacusis community — the patients, sufferers, and organization that supports us — will see a silver lining.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story. I hope this can help raise awareness.