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Worsening unilateral tinnitus and frightening brain zaps


Greetings everyone ;D, I am a 26 year old male who has had unilateral tinnitus for about 8 years. I believe that there might be something very wrong with my brain because of other related symptoms. However, I am being sure to keep my observations and suspicions in check, as I have schizoaffective disorder.

My tinnitus has characteristically been stable, non-pulsatile, unremitting, and anywhere from ~6,000 - ~13,500 hz in pure tone (usually around the upper range). It started faintly enough to only be noticed for the first time in quiet settings, and it has gradually became louder over the following years. There is no associated hearing loss, I do not feel particularly inconvenienced or distressed about having it or never again experiencing a true silence, and it does not seem to come from my ear. Instead, I hear it deep inside the right side of my head, near the center. I seriously doubt that my tinnitus is a result of schizoaffective disorder, as it predates it by several years and has never played a major role in positive symptoms.

About six years ago, I was given a hearing test and an mri, with no test results indicating any cause for the tinnitus. I only knew of one other condition that could be the culprit, but the dentist has seen no signs of TMJ in my jaw. A CAT scan four years ago turned up negative. I don't know of any other causes that fit the nature of my tinnitus, so it has remained idiopathic. Having idiopathic tinnitus is kinda like not receiving any mail on your payday. You were looking forward to a cure, but no news is good news. It's pretty common for tinnitus to have no known cause, because the real cause cannot be measured by even thorough diagnostic testing (all the ones designed to rule out anything serious).

Over roughly the last two or three months, my tinnitus has been getting noticeably louder, and my erratic blood pressure has soared several times into dangerous levels, even with daily blood pressure meds. However, within about the last week or so, my tinnitus has started changing within the day, going from far less intrusive than normal to far louder than normal. I’ve also noticed some “harmonics” in the tinnitus where I can actually hear several frequency bands at once, and it almost has a spatial quality to it where certain frequencies seem “wider” than others. However, I can’t actually say if this is anything new because I’ve been in the habit of ignoring it.

Also within about the last week, I got the first episode of a now ongoing issue that I can only describe as “brain zaps on steroids.” These episodes are the most frightening thing I’ve ever experienced; the closest thing I can compare it to is being hit by lightning (I have been hit indirectly by lightning through a computer, but, sadly, I did not gain the ability to interface with electronics digitally). Before the “lightning” hits, I get a random, weird, dreamlike thoughts. The “zap” that sometimes follows lasts for just a fraction of a second, but it is extremely violent. It is from the tinnitus sound “exploding” and engulfing me (it’s no longer unilateral or bilateral tinnitus at this point, but a mental perception of being surrounded by a uniform sphere of tinnitus). The explosion is more like twisting a volume knob from mid to max really fast – most of the explosiveness is from the intensity of the sound. As this is happening the pure-tone tinnitus fades and a new, tv-static-like sound envelops my awareness. If I listen really closely, I can hear this static extremely faintly even in normal circumstances. If I have my eyes open, my vision blurs, and sometimes I can see faint flashes of white light.

Immediately after the zap, I get this penetrating feeling of death and doom, and then I have a whole-body startle/pain reflex. My whole body sensory awareness annihilates to chaotic static and fades into a free-fall with gravity. However, like a hand to a red-hot stove, my entire body reflexes and that spell ends. It feels eerily similar to that feeling I got during my failed suicide attempt, the one when I was sickest from a massive nicotine overdose.

These spells are most likely to happen when I am tired or lying in bed. It’s like my brain is suddenly and forcibly losing consciousness well before I start actually drifting to sleep. I don’t have any sleep disorders and have been getting good, quality sleep. In addition, I have not had this spell during sleep. Other symptoms such as spontaneous loss of working memory (and even context) or feelings of being in a daze and zoning out have happened as well, but none of the other symptoms quite compare to this one.

I’ve spoken to my GP about the symptoms and he sees as I do that they are tied in with the tinnitus, but he thinks that my mind might be playing tricks on me. Although I do not yet know what observations are placebo or schizo-related and what ones are not, these are new phenomenon. The sound of my tinnitus distinctly changes with symptoms affecting consciousness. I’ve had delusions and thought disorder, but I’ve never hallucinated, so that would be extremely uncharacteristic for my particular case of schizoaffective disorder. However, my mind has played tricks on me, leading me to dismiss things that I notice as a symptom only because it’s the first time I’ve ever decided to pay attention or experiment with said thing. So, I’ve chosen to think about the symptoms less and pay less attention to them when they return to see whether or not they are real. I’ve already discovered that at least some of the inner pressure I feel is from sinus issues, and I’m still waiting to see if I can reliably get rid of more these symptoms by finding alternative explanations, but I’m still far from being able to completely explain away these symptoms.

I've read that MRI's can miss very small tumors, and human error, although probably very rare, can happen. Apparently, tumors cause their symptoms mainly by location. I could easily have had the AN causing tinnitus without it being large enough to be detected. I've also hypothesized that the tumor may have been a different kind and missed because it wasn't particularly looked for. Lastly, CAT scans can only pick up relatively large tumors. Whatever the case, size only becomes a problem when it starts causing secondary effects on the brain, such as increased inter-cranial pressure or pressures on key brain structures; instead, even larger, growing tumors can be relatively harmless and even symptomless over a period of time as the brain compensates with its redundancy and plasticity, so a small tumor producing one or no symptoms can continue to grow for quite some time before producing additional symptoms.

So, does anyone else here recognize these symptoms I’m having? Was an acoustic neuroma found? Are there alternative explanations?

Update: All the symptoms have completely stopped, and my tinnitus has stabilized.

The last time I had symptoms was on December 12, when I had forgotten to take most of my medication that night. I missed a high dose of an antidepressant in addition to two blood pressure meds.

30+ brain zaps that night, all similar to the ones previous. So, all the symptoms are harmless and stem from a benign cause. The symptoms except the tinnitus itself were side-effects from being on Viibryd at a high dose for several weeks, then missing a dose, and being on a high dose of clonidine for several weeks then abruptly withdrawing (as ordered by doc).

Now, I change my name from SavedByTheBell to DazedByTheBell.

I feel like that night's dream experience is an interesting enough story to elaborate on.

I feel "asleep" on one of these zaps and started lucid dreaming vivid, exotic, but surprisingly consistent content. I've only ever had a handful of these dreams, but they're like bit-perfect simulations of various common dreams that can be accessed, left, and re-accessed with the only changes being from the passage of "time" and not memory errors. I had probably 30+ zaps through the whole night, even deep in dreaming. They had the tendency to affect my level of awareness, jolting me into sleep or partially out of it, sometimes even contributing to and seeming to come from dream content. I had the same dream start from where it left off over and over again, even after getting up and doing something for an hour. Darndest thing is that I still haven't written it down (but I have written down others :D).

Oh yea, and that captcha I did for this msg could have possibly offended someone :P.

50,000,000 people in the US have Tinnitus. About 12,000,000 have it serious enough to warrant medical attention.

Less then 200,000 people in the US have Acoustic Neuromas.

In the absence of other symptoms the odds are substantially in your favor that you don't have an Acoustic Neuroma.

That you have a mental disability, take psychoactive medication, and missed your medication may go a long way toward explaining what happened.

Beyond that you may just be one of 50,000,000 "blessed" with Tinnitus. Do the best you can to adjust to it, like the rest of us.

I don't see anything in your story that could offend anybody.

Check out the ATA website:

I know this thread is four years old... but, my story is almost identical to yours in regards to tinnitus... though, I'm almost certain mine comes from years of headphone use and playing in rock bands. My tinnitus is also multi-frequency and spatial.

I've gradually weened off the SSRI "Sertraline" over the past three weeks, going from 75mg to 50mg to 25mg... and stopped taking it altogether three days ago.

Last night I was experiencing these "electrical pulses" in my brain. Tonight, it's more severe.
I started getting a bit paranoid, so I looked it up... and discovered "Brain Zaps" are a common side-effect of stopping anti-depressants.
I can initiate the zaps with certain eye movements.

While the tinnitus enhances the zaps for me... I tend to feel they aren't actually related.


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