Hello, my name is Travis Scott Henry and I suffer from hyperacusis and tinnitus. I think the onset came from a combination of factors. I feel like I was more susceptible to getting these conditions due to physical and mental stressors. I’m 6’6” and have poor posture, which caused me to develop neck problems. These issues were made worse when I was stabbed three times in my shoulder, forearm, and back of my neck, after coming to the aid of a young lady at a party who was being harassed by a group of guys. I’ve had to deal with a lot of psychological and physical abuse that has taken a toll on me over the years and given me trust issues, anxiety, and OCD.
Prior to the onset of my symptoms, I had a long history of noise exposure, but until I got the COVID-19 vaccine in August 2021, I didn’t have any ear issues. I started noticing tinnitus in quiet settings after that. Over the next few months, I went to 3 concerts with no worsening of symptoms, so I thought I’d be okay.
Unfortunately, in January 2022 I listened to my dad’s band play in a small space one evening, and afterwards my tinnitus volume increased substantially, began to fluctuate, and I developed hyperacusis. At that time, I was able to listen to quiet music, exercise, and work, so I had some coping mechanisms. The same month, I went on a ski trip with my girlfriend and my symptoms continued to worsen. After I returned from my trip, I tried 2 different masking devices to help me sleep with the loud, intrusive tinnitus—Bose sleep earbuds and a headband with sleep headphones. In each case, the constant noise in close proximity to my ears worsened me even more. Everything around me began sounding so much louder and overwhelming, and my tinnitus turned to a deafening electrical sound mixed with a gushing water faucet. Without the ability to mask my tinnitus, getting sleep became a major struggle.
I was growing very concerned about noise exposure worsening me at this point, so in February and March, I went to 2 separate clinics where I was told I just needed to learn to mentally accept my conditions and that every day noise wasn’t what was causing the exacerbation. They advised against wearing hearing protection in my daily life, and insisted if I did that it could actually worsen my hyperacusis. Following this advice, my ears continued to become more irritated on a daily basis. I was given several ototoxic medications in attempts to calm my anxiety over my ears. When I tried them, they also worsened my symptoms, so I stopped taking them.
At this stage, with the progressive worsening, I decided to start wearing musician’s earplugs when going out and about. I thought that it would help. Sadly, I had sustained too much damage already and the low amount of protection they offered was insufficient to prevent further worsening. My ears continued to become aggravated by more and more things.
In early April, I was talked into going to a music festival against my better judgment. This was a huge mistake. I wore hearing protection the whole time, but this event worsened me so much that I really began to struggle to get by on a daily basis. At the end of the month, I went to a TMJ clinic in hopes of getting some relief, since I had read that many people were citing jaw issues as a factor contributing to their tinnitus severity. At the appointment, they did a low level laser therapy session on my jaw, ears, and surrounding areas. On my way home from the session, my hyperacusis became even more sensitive and my tinnitus turned extremely reactive to any sound input. This combination brought my tinnitus volume to new heights. From that day forward, I have been homebound and unable to tolerate any sound without it aggravating my symptoms. The hyperacusis sensitivity and tinnitus reactivity caused me to lose all of my coping mechanisms. I can no longer tolerate music at any level, I can’t exercise without irritating my ears, and I’m unable to work. Now all I do all day is try to find the most silence I possibly can.
In May, I was given a benzodiazepine. My doctor said it could help me cope with my tinnitus and anxiety over my suffering. While it did help some at first, I quickly developed tolerance to it and began experiencing tolerance withdrawal. My symptoms began to worsen between doses. I decided to taper off the drug and that process further aggravated things. I now have what I consider to be an unlivable level of hyperacusis and tinnitus. I even tried reinstating the benzodiazepine at a higher dose and it didn’t provide any relief. Since then, I have desperately scoured the internet and tried a plethora of treatments, but have yet to find any relief. I only seem to get worse as time goes by.
Up to August 2021, I had a wonderful life. I was an insurance adjuster on a catastrophic storm team that chased storms. I loved my job because it was adventurous and I was able to help people. I also did volunteer work for non-profits, like helping Retreet replant trees after a wildfire, and helping provide college style courses for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities at My Possibilities. In my day-to-day life, I would go out of my way to help people if I saw them in need. I was a social butterfly, always the life of the party. I loved to travel and had dreams of seeing the world and starting a family. These conditions have taken everything away from me.
Now, I’m not even able to work or take care of my household anymore. I can’t help myself, much less help others. I can’t fraternize with anyone outside of text messaging or social media anymore. I can’t tolerate any sounds; all of them feel like they’re attacking me and raise my tinnitus. There is seemingly no limit to how loud it can get. It keeps getting louder. My tolerance levels to sound are so low that the nerves—or whatever’s damaged—don’t allow me to take any noise in. I can’t even shower. To remedy that, I came up with an alternative method of bathing, where I drip water on me and use a washcloth with soap, but it still worsens my symptoms because the process produces sound. It’s truly a nightmarish situation that I’m in. Sound is everywhere in life and there’s no way to avoid it. With every exposure, I’m worsening more and more. My life presently consists of constant isolation in a rural house that a friend is letting me stay in, so I can avoid noise as much as possible. I try to explain my situation to people and most can’t understand. It’s such a crazy thing, you know? Who would’ve thought that such a thing could happen? I never knew that ears could do this—no one warns us about this.
Please help raise awareness for these afflictions. We need people to understand the true nature of these conditions to combat medical and societal gaslighting that’s thrown on sufferers. I’ve spread the word everywhere I can on my social media and raised over $1,000 for the cause. We desperately need real treatments for these ruinous conditions. There are many of us lost in the shadows, hoping one day to see the light and regain some semblance of a normal life.
Travis Scott Henry