It seems like my body is reacting to the stress that I may or may not feel. I found myself with sore gums on a daily basis when I woke up in the morning a few months ago. That was around the time we initially got pregnant and I had to juggle going to the ultrasound appointment as well as to attend my grandma’s funeral in Asia. It dawned on me that I was probably clenching or grinding my teeth during my sleep. The logical next step is to get a mouth guard to wear in my sleep. But since I will be getting Invisalign for a couple of misaligned teeth, I will be wearing that instead of a mouth guard at night. That doesn’t solve my teeth grinding or clenching problems though.
The night before my trip to the 20 week ultrasound about 1.5 months ago, I took a shower and washed my hair. When I was wiping my hair dry, my right ear felt plugged and full. No amount of yawning and popping my ears would get rid of that feeling. An air whooshing sound also returned. I said “returned” because I had the same experience nine years ago right after I was at a concert and sat too close to the stage and the speakers. I had vertigo back then and I heard air whooshing sound on my right ear constantly. This is called tinnitus which is defined as hearing noises or ringing in the ears when no such external physical noise is present. Luckily I work at a place with audiologists and one of my coworkers is a tinnitus expert. She made sure that my hearing was fine, and told me that the sound in my ears should disappear in about nine months because my brain would get used to the sound. And she was right. The sound went away after 9 months. That was so many years ago that I forgot how it felt. Until now.
The increase in volume has been gradual. In the beginning it was just a narrow band white noise like a hissing sound. I didn’t really notice it that much unless the surrounding environment was really quiet. As time progresses, it has become increasingly louder and much more noticeable. The fullness in the ear started to disappear but the air sound has become stronger. Two weeks ago at church during sermon I couldn’t hear Bob who whispered in my right ear because the air whooshing sound was so loud. I had to turn my head towards him in order to understand what he was saying. And then Last week one day I woke up in the morning by Bob’s alarm clock at 5:30am. The quietness of the bedroom intensified the air whooshing sound. The sound was so loud that I got scared for the first time ever since tinnitus came back. What if this sound never goes away and only gets worse and louder. It could be so debilitating.
My tinnitus expert coworker and I both agreed that this could all stem from my temporomandibular joint problem that is caused by my teeth clenching/grinding which in turn is possibly caused by the stress in my life. The funny thing is, I do not feel that I am overly stressed, but my body may disagree. I guess my body is reacting to my growing to-do list and the weekend tasks of getting the house ready for the babies. Sometimes I can hear the sound so loudly when I work with kids that I have to work really hard to concentrate on what they are saying. I feel the most comfortable when I stand in the hallway in front of the closet that houses telecom equipments because of the machine noises that resemble the white noise in my ear. A friend of ours gave us a sound machine for the babies. I put it by the bedside and turn it on when we go to bed and wake up to it. Since it is on the left side of my bed, it helps to balance out the noise. Who knew that something intended for our babies would be so useful in my situation?
I don’t think the stress level will go down any time soon as the time approaches for us to take our babies home. We have been warned by many about the fatigue that we will likely experience the many months after the babies are born. I just hope that my body pulls through again for me once more by getting used to the tinnitus so I won’t hear the noise again in a matter of nine months, just like last time.