Saturday, March 16, 2013

Cortisol and Tinnitus

I had my second pituitary tumor resection surgery done at MD Anderson Cancer Center on April 20, 2011. My ears have been ringing with tinnitus ever since. My first evening I awoke after being in recovery, I asked my husband to close the curtains to block out the light and try to be quiet. All sound was bothering me. I woke a little later to see my mother and two sisters whispering in the room. They had come to see me after surgery and my husband relayed my requests. When i returned home, my husband hammered blankets across our bedroom windows to block out sunlight and noise. It was nearly blacked out, and it was my favorite part of the house and vital to my recovery after surgery.

Even today though, I don't like a lot of noise or light in the house. My windows are covered with different blankets but still blacked out. While my husband is at work, I keep the TV off. I hate all the chattering and noise from commercials. I don't listen to music in the car anymore. It's too noisy. I hate it. Yes, this classically-trained-vehicle-singer no longer likes it or does it. My radio is off while on the road.

Since my surgery, for nearly two years, I
have faced tinnitus on a daily basis--loud nonstop buzzing. It is not pulsatile with my heart beat (like another cause of tinnitus). It is not localized in my ears. It is difficult to describe, but I feel like I am wearing a headband that buzzes. I hear the buzzing in both ears, around the top of my head and through my brain. Tonight it is so loud, it sounds like a bug zapper.

I have mentioned my tinnitus to several endocrinologists and neurosurgeons. None have asked follow up questions and none have related it to my fluctuating adrenal hormones. Last week, one stated it was unrelated to the pituitary.

Then I find this article below which states:

"Tinnitus is a frequent, debilitating hearing disorder associated with severe emotional and psychological suffering. Although a link between stress and tinnitus has been widely recognized, the empirical evidence is scant."

Why can't my doctors help me?  Why don't they know what I stumble across on the Internet as medical fact?  Why must I continue to put the pieces together for them to see the diagnostic picture? The Art of Diagnosis is not only exhausting me; it is draining my life light right out of me.

When will someone sweep me off my crippled feet and discover the treatment that will return me to my vibrant self?


BMC Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders 2012, 12:4 doi:10.1186/1472-6815-12-4

Cortisol suppression and hearing thresholds in tinnitus after low-dose dexamethasone challenge

Veerle L Simoens1,2,3 and Sylvie Hébert3,4,5*


Tinnitus is a frequent, debilitating hearing disorder associated with severe emotional and psychological suffering. Although a link between stress and tinnitus has been widely recognized, the empirical evidence is scant. Our aims were to test for dysregulation of the stress-related hypothalamus-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis in tinnitus and to examine ear sensitivity variations with cortisol manipulation.


Twenty-one tinnitus participants and 21 controls comparable in age, education, and overall health status but without tinnitus underwent basal cortisol assessments on three non-consecutive days and took 0.5 mg of dexamethasone (DEX) at 23:00 on the first day. Cortisol levels were measured hourly the next morning. Detection and discomfort hearing thresholds were measured before and after dexamethasone suppression test.


Both groups displayed similar basal cortisol levels, but tinnitus participants showed stronger and longer-lasting cortisol suppression after DEX administration. Suppression was unrelated to hearing loss. Discomfort threshold was lower after cortisol suppression in tinnitus ears.


Our findings suggest heightened glucocorticoid sensitivity in tinnitus in terms of an abnormally strong glucocorticoid receptor (GR)-mediated HPA-axis feedback (despite a normal mineralocorticoid receptor (MR)-mediated tone) and lower tolerance for sound loudness with suppressed cortisol levels. Long-term stress exposure and its deleterious effects therefore constitute an important predisposing factor for, or a significant pathological consequence of, this debilitating hearing disorder.


FREE:  The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found at: