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Weirdly bad memory - is this normal or am I being over critical?

  • 03-09-2021 10:03am
    Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    I’m just wondering if anyone else experiences this, or if I’m just being overly self critical.

    Every once in a while, I’ve always had these days where my memory and accuracy is very poor.

    It’s usually associated with a very bad bout of tinnitus, which I have had since I had very bad ear problems in my teens & had a lot of ear surgery done to fix parts of my middle ear.

    Basically, I will get a day where I’m just stupid. I forget or can’t access basic facts like my card PIN numbers, passwords, etc will suddenly elude me. I might start writing thing with major typos, forgetting peoples’ names or not turning up to meet someone, having entirely forgotten about it or maybe not even being aware of it being Friday today or it just not registering.

    It happened yesterday and I even managed to leave a guy I was talking to on a web chat tech support line on hold and forgot that I was even on the conversation until I found the webpage and it was a case of “whoops!”

    I got through college and a postgrad, but it’s like people think I’m an utter moron when this happens and it has walked me into very big issues at work in corporate contexts, to the point I just avoid doing anything that this could cause issues with and stick with being self-employed and stay with, I suppose, more nebulous areas that allow me to stick to area that don’t involve a lot of administrative type tasks.

    I use lists and tools to keep on top of things but it’s just sometimes it’s very disconcerting when you’re in SuperValu and looking at a pin pad without any notion of what your pin is. Or end up resetting passwords multiple times on the same day.

    It’s not all the time and perhaps I just have a glitchy memory, but I very much associate it with having started after that ear problem issue. I had tons of ear infections and a load of odd surgeries, but it was like from that point on my memory and concentration went patchy. I’m not saying it was the surgery per se, but the extremely bad run of ear infections seemed to have an issue. Like at one stage I was on IV antibiotics to deal with one of them.

    Then again, it could also be unrelated, but it seems to coincide with this kind of mix of tinnitus and being a bit floaty.

    Anyway, I was just wondering if anyone else has ever experienced anything like this…


  • Registered Users Posts: 1,051 ✭✭✭Curse These Metal Hands

    Assuming you've been checked out medically and all the rest? Does your ear keep you awake or distract you during tasks?

    Do you spend a lot of time on your phone/social media out of interest? I noticed a decline in my memory in recent years (which manifested as carelessness in work) so I got rid of social media apps on my phone, did various concentration exercises and mindfulness and started to read a lot more and it improved dramatically.

    Diet and exercise plays a huge role too.

  • Registered Users Posts: 26,578 ✭✭✭✭Turtwig

    This is clearly something that is impacting your life. You mentioned avoiding corporate stuff because of it. You need to talk to your gp about it and if needs be seek a second opinion. Might be advisable to write everything down first like your post and ask your gp to read it.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Had it checked out and was told there's nothing they can do about it, but yeah the tinnitus is very loud sometimes, to the point it will distract me in the middle of a sentence if it kicks off.

    I have a permanent tone that's a bit like the sound you'd get if a TV station was off the air, and on one side only (where I had the ear damage) and then occasionally a louder tone across it which is the one that will cause the distraction.

    I sleep with music on or a fan on all the time, and sometimes it will actually wake me up. But, in general I can ignore it most of the time unless it's particularly bad.

    Always found say studying in a library very challenging unless I'm wearing headphones and listening to music. Silence isn't silent so it's kinda always been very challenging, I really seek noisy environments. Loud music is my refuge sometimes.

    There isn't a whole lot you can do about it though as it's just neurological damage to the inner ear, either due to the bad infections in my teens or because of the poking around repairing things during surgery.

    I had an MRI and so on and there's nothing unexpected there, so I guess I'm just stuck with that permanently.

    --- this is close enough to what I hear in my left ear all the time - you get used to it - sorta like you would in any background noise.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,051 ✭✭✭Curse These Metal Hands

    Not fun. I developed visual snow after a bad migraine a few years ago. In rooms with low light I'd have difficulty concentrating because of it and then I would find I that I didn't take in information properly or missed something. It could be the case that your focus is constantly being interrupted.

    Anxiety, depression and the medication used to treat it can affect the memory too.

    There are apps and things now for helping to retrain your ability to focus. The brain needs exercise, which is why I try not to use social media apps because I just scroll for hours mindlessly. Putting the phone away at bedtime made a massive difference for me, otherwise you're not reflecting on the day just gone by and remembering things, you're distracting yourself until you fall asleep then going straight into the following day.

    Meditation really helps too especially if you are living in your head a lot.

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  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    That doesn't sound fun either.

    You could be right. It could be that I'm just getting my concentration interrupted all the time.

    I'm not on any medication for anything, other than randomly ending up on antibiotics, which is all ear related and unfortunately there's nothing really recommended for dealing with this as it's caused by physical damage to the sensory part of my ear.

    The various tinnitus treatments that are out there seem to be aimed at a different phenomena, that seem to be more 'software' than 'hardware.'

    In my case, it's just my ear sending false signals / distorted sounds. I've some hearing loss on that side too, but nothing really that causes me any issues, apart from sometimes finding busy conversations with a lot of people a little hard to filter and follow e.g. in a pub

    In university I found that if I was essay writing, the only way I could get into the zone was to listen to music. So I've tended towards careers that don't involve silence or corporate environments much, and luckily have been able to do that.

    I'm fine as long as I'm bouncing around talking to people, or in a noisy, bubbly kind of environment. The louder the better.

    Unfortunately the problem with meditation, while it's a great suggestion, is that for me is if I do something that involves a lot of deep focus, all I can hear is that sound - and it makes me notice it again having worked for weeks to filter it. So I tend to avoid anything that involves that kind of silent mental exercise. Someone recommended Yoga which kinda brought on all those issues.

    I have the odd day where I'm just fit for nothing other than sleep though. It's bit awkward, but not much I can do about it I guess.

    If it's really bad, I just don't get normal sleep. It will quite literally wake me up, or I will end up with screwed up dreams, with no particular logic at all, that involve the high pitched noise and sensations of floating, which I think is just to do with a my vestibular system being a bit screwy.

    Anyway, it's not THAT bad, in the sense that I can get on with stuff, it's just that I think maybe it is causing me some serious concentration issues.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,543 ✭✭✭Ave Sodalis

    Hi there OP,

    I'm sure if you posted this question in the long term illness forum, you'll find a lot of people that experience the same (or similar) thing.

    Brain fog and fatigue are a symptom of most chronic illnesses because as amazing as our brain is, there is a limit. Things like pain, sickness and possibly tinnitus can cause your brain to start shutting off non-essential functions like memory and concentration. It is a horrible experience, to go from a functional human being to feeling like you're as dumb as a box of rocks. Not being able to recall simple facts that you know are in your head somewhere, forgetting important things, reading the same sentence over and over because it's not registering, having no idea what the person you're talking to just said, having to stop talking half way through a sentence because you realise you don't know what it is you're having a conversation about any more, jumbling up words, etc,.

    However, because it's a sign of so many things, it's definitely worth having another chat with your doctor to rule out anything else underlying.

  • Registered Users Posts: 642 ✭✭✭Housefree

    Same stuff happens to me, I just put it down to years of drink & drug abuse. Maybe you shut yourself down being over anxious with it. For example if you insult somebody first, it's hard for them to come back quickly, it shuts them down psychologically. Something similar could be happening to you

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    I’m not anxious about it tbh. I’ve had this level of hearing issues and tinnitus always, or at least as long as I can remember, and I’m used to it.

    I just have always had the odd day, like today, when it’s extremely loud and I just get that I need to switch off, or find a beach and go for a walk to shut it out. It’s weird and annoying.

    I got very little understanding about it in my younger days. I wasn’t really able to hear properly in primary school and most of secondary school, but other than at home (and only sort of), nobody was really aware of that or they just didn’t believe me. It would just get brushed aside.

    So I used to just get shouted at by teachers for not paying attention. I also spoke way too softly, which was because I could hear my own voice much louder than I was actually speaking due to hearing problems, so that resulted in people assuming I was shy, which I wasn’t. Or, they would shout things like “big boys voice” at me in secondary school. My classmates used to mock me about it pretty viciously too or just think I was weird.

    I even got sent to elocution classes, recommended by a school which had a visiting elocution teacher, where I had to say things louder and louder to different points in the room, but I had no way of actually figuring out how loud I was and I wasn’t an anxiety or stage fright issue. I just had no idea if I was talking loud or soft. I just remember having to perform these starchy poems.

    I also got sent for music classes like to learn the cello, the violin, the piano and they were all just annoying noise to me. I used to just end up having long, chats with the teacher, but couldn’t play any more accurately if my life depended too on it, and the violin in particular is just … shudder. I really dislike the sound of it. It’s ok if it’s far away and played by a pro.

    Several of my secondary teachers used to bang my desk with books, or throw objects (copy books, dusters, a tennis ball etc) at me when I didn’t hear them. One guy used to blow a refs whistle at me! I even got on detention for “not paying attention” by my Irish teacher multiple times. One guy used to just roar “wake up you **** space cadet!” at me.

    I also remember one primary teacher in particular who just used to get angry with me when I didn’t pronounce something right in Irish, or misinterpreted sounds when phonetic spelling, like I would have sometimes heard B as P. So I was completely convinced that binoculars were pinoculars.

    I also used to get endlessly pressured into going to swimming classes, which were available in school, and because of physical ear problems, it was just so much hassle. I never learned how to swim because getting chlorinated water in my ear stings like crazy, so I never put my head in pool or sea water. There were wax plugs called Quies, which never worked or big plastic/rubber ones that just hurt. You always had some well intentioned PE teacher type pushing the issue or trying to get me to put my head under water, which I explained over and over was painful, yet … meh!

    I only got to a proper ENT in my mid teens initially and things initially and had a lot of surgery done to correct it and things have from there.

    Anyway, I’m just feeling sorry for myself but, it wasn’t a fun era.

  • Registered Users Posts: 642 ✭✭✭Housefree

    Funny you should say about the space cadet, a teacher of mine said 'earth to mindy Nanu nanu'

    Do you daydream much? Over thinking?

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  • Registered Users Posts: 24,006 ✭✭✭✭Strumms

    your MRI was clear so I wouldn’t be worrying ..

    i have tinnitus.. it’s been put down to years of working in loud environments, initially without good or good enough PPE...something I had to personally fight for.

    also I for years go to lots of gigs, for lots of years play guitar , use headphones out shopping, walking etc..I love music..that wouldn’t have helped.

    tinnitus can also be associated with brain injury/illness as you probably know and often is a sign of a brain trying to recover but failing...but the MRI would have shown that..

    if you have been undergoing stress, not eating well etc, that brings on the same symptoms. Memory issues too.

  • Afaik, (speaking as a layman, in layman's terms) we all have a certain amount of daily processing power in terms of attention and concentration. If we don't sleep or are ill this daily amount starts off the day already depleted. On a day when your tinnitus flares up it's possibly just draining away cognitive resources that would usually be allocated to attention and concentration, especially if coupled with poor sleep. Do you know why your tinnitus flares up?

    It's something I've been getting more aware of as i get older. I try and guard my allocation of daily concentration to tasks that matter. Not always easy with a world of distraction at our fingertips.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    Yeah the tinnitus flares up because of pressure in my middle & inner ear. It’s a physical thing. I had a lot of work done on that ear and know the tiggers.

    If I get an ear infection / problem with the ear, it will typically get sore and I get loud tinnitus and get slightly dizzy.

    Only way I can manage it is when it flares up I take nasal sprays and if it’s an infection I have to go on antibiotics. I got away with relatively few incidents this last couple of years, but I think it’s down to covid restrictions, masking and work from home. Typically I will have about two ear infections every year and I am assuming they’re triggered by colds and opportunistic bacteria getting a foothold when I get one. If the usual colds and bugs are flying around as per normal, I wouldn’t have skipped those.

    Basically what it sounds like is a continuous high pitched tone, which is not the annoying bit. When it flares up, my hearing will drop in and out in one ear and I just hear gaps in audio / loud tones and/or everything sounds like it’s squelchy or distorted on that side.

    A drum beat for example sounds fine on my right but has an added distortion on my left.

  • Registered Users Posts: 412 ✭✭ghoulfinger

    It seems from what you say that your sleep quality may lie behind your concentration/memory issues and that how you might address this may be the best solution. I can’t imagine how hard it is for you to sleep, mere racing thoughts can sometimes keep me awake but to have unwanted sound do it on a regular basis is very debilitating.

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    There isn't really any way of addressing it though other than what I do already. I leave a fan on all night and put on soft music.

    The fan makes a kinda white noise that seems to work.

    I mean if you can sleep on a plane with the engine noise...

    I can't sleep in a silent room tbh unless I'm exhausted to the point I sleep.