Inner Ear Fuckery and Side Dish Ennui

April 24, 2015

Hello, Readers!

After four months of living with tinnitus (a high-pitched ringing in both ears), I finally broke down and made an appointment with the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor. Why did I wait so long, you ask? Well, a) I am lazy and b) I’d read from multiple online sources that tinnitus isn’t curable and nobody really knows what causes it and c) I was naively hoping that it would go away.

Alas, it didn’t go away. It actually got worse; some days the ringing was so loud and so persistent that it drove me to tears. It also started to cause vertigo, and as bad as tinnitus is, vertigo is worse. I’m uncoordinated as Hell in a natural healthy state. Add vertigo into the mix and I’m a walking hazard. So off I went to the doctor.

Shitty News Item #1: There is, indeed, no cure for tinnitus nor do they really know what causes it. There are some things that have vague correlations with it: too much caffeine, too much stress, exposure to loud noise (like gunshots or construction machines or many, many rock concerts), teeth grinding/clenching, too much salt in the diet. Those are all just shots in the dark really. The best he could do was tell me to watch the caffeine, get some rest, try to relax, and to give up (sob!) my daily popcorn habit.

Shitty News Item #2: I had to take a hearing test and turns out, I’m fairly hearing impaired when sounds get into the higher registers. So, do I have tinnitus because I’m losing my hearing or am I losing my hearing because I have tinnitus. Well, they don’t know. Imagine that.

Not-As-Shitty News Item #3: They can try to relieve the vertigo, and that might help the tinnitus. Treatment for vertigo is weird and involves some sort of re-distribution of the crystals in your inner ear. Now, I consider myself a fairly educated person, but any time someone tries to explain to  me what goes on in the inner ear, I’m lost. Absolutely, totally stumped and it makes zero sense to me but hey, if sitting in a chair and being tilted up and down and seven ways sideways might ease the misery in my head, I’m in.

Shitty News Item #4: What happens after your little time in the tippy chair sucks. You might feel dizzy (yes). You might have nausea (yes). You might vomit (oh, yeah). You might feel extremely tired (uh-huh). For two whole days after the treatment. Other pain in the ass things involved: no bending down/over, no looking up, no looking down, and no sleeping in a comfortable position–again, all of this for 2 days. Ever tried to sleep in a recliner, keeping your body at a 45 degree angle? Ummm, it’s not very conducive to sleep. It’s also pretty impossible not to bend over or look down when you have children to take care of, a house to tend to and a small dog who wants constant lovin.’

But I tried. I did. I spent two miserable sleepless nights and, as directed, wrapped a scarf tightly around my neck to remind myself to keep my head upright at all times during the day. Luckily, the vomiting stopped after about 5 hours after my spin in the tippy chair, but can I  just say something?

If you want to experience futility, try to vomit without bending over or looking down. I mean, think about it? How do you do that? I was quite the failure at horizontal vomiting. It’s messy, highly inaccurate aim-wise, and so ridiculously impossible that I was laughing in spite of myself. On my list of things I don’t recommend: horizontal vomiting. Lots of laundry involved with horizontal vomiting.

As I write this, the tinnitus persists. It’s not quite as loud as it was a few days ago, but it’s still pretty loud and I’m trying hard not to be discouraged. The vertigo is better, and for that, I am grateful.

It’s been difficult to write much with this constant ringing in my head. It’s noisy enough in my head as it is, but the constant high pitched wail makes stringing words together monumentally hard. I’m limping along, though. Cross your fingers for me, would you?

*awkward segue*

The day of my appointment with the ENT doctor, I got busy in the kitchen early. I’d been warned that I might feel under the weather for a few days, so I wanted to have a few things prepped and ready to pull out of the refrigerator for hungry tummies. I packed several day’s worth of school lunches and snacks, cooked off a few chicken breasts and sliced them for salads/sandwiches and made this orzo side dish, which I’d seen last week on the Food Network.

It’s a Giada De Laurentis recipe, and I usually find most of her dishes are winners. I thought this one sounded like a nice departure from the usual bland, boring side dish. I’ve spoken before about how I get Side Dish Ennui, so I’m always looking for something a little different. With the charred tomato vinaigrette and the addition of smoked salt, this orzo dish sounded really intriguing.

This first time I made it, I did very little tweaking to the recipe. The only thing I did differently was add some extra chopped basil leaves, just because I love basil. The smoked salt is something that you’ll probably have to order online or go to a specialty grocery store for. I got mine at Williams-Sonoma, but I’m sure Penzey’s or Dean and Deluca would have it, too.

I’m wondering if smoked salts vary in the intensity of smoke flavor, much like paprika can be wildly different between brands/kinds? Mine was only mildly smoky–in fact, I didn’t think the dish was smoky enough. I remedied this by adding 1/4 teaspoon of smoked paprika (Pimienton) to the dish and that seemed to add that extra hit of smokiness that I wanted.

The dish was good, but I thought it lacked a texture contrast? It was just too smooth–I craved a little crunch, a little bit of interest. I think next time I make it (and I will, it was good enough to make again and fiddle with), I’ll add a little chopped scallion or red onion, maybe a few fresh cherry tomatoes, and perhaps a few chopped smoked almonds, just for richness and another layer of smoky flavor.  I’ll tinker around with it and report back, and if you decide to make this, let me know what you think/what you did.

Thanks for hanging in there with me, readers.  I’m ringing and I’m stumbling around, but I’ll make it through. But Jesus, how am I going to live without my popcorn?!!



Orzo with Smokey Tomato Vinaigrette

recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentis

serves 4-6


1 pound (2 pints) cherry tomatoes

1 pound orzo pasta



1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon smoked salt, plus more for seasoning

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning

1/3 cup grated Parmesan

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, optional


Place the tomatoes in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, shaking the pan occasionally, until the tomatoes are tender and blackened/charred in spots, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes. Drain and place in a large serving bowl.

While pasta cooks, place the tomatoes, basil, vinegar, olive oil, honey, smoked salt and pepper into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

After the pasta is drained, pour the vinaigrette over and toss until coated. Sprinkle the cheese over and toss. Taste for seasoning and add more smoked salt, pepper and/or smoked paprika, if desired.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Abbe @ This is How I Cook April 24, 2015 at 7:53 am

Oh my! My ears are ringing just thinking of you. What an awful thing to go through. My hubby had tinnitus due to stress but not the dizziness. My friend has constant dizziness but not the tinnitus. And no popcorn? It sounds awful, but it sounds like you are holding up amazingly well; at least your sense of humor is. I hope you feel better soon. This orzo sounds fabulous!


elizabeth April 24, 2015 at 8:28 am

There’s an old pasta salad recipe from Giada that calls for red onion and chickpeas and the like that I think you might really like as texturally it’s very interesting:

I’m sorry that your inner ear is giving you such hell–if you have to make those dietary sacrifices, I hope it at least does something for you in relieving some of this irritation!


Tiffany April 24, 2015 at 3:40 pm

I sincerely hope the tinnitus goes away soon…how miserable! And horizontal vomiting? Eeeewwww!


Anonymous April 24, 2015 at 8:52 pm

I have had some inner ear issues with dizziness in the past and the doctor I saw had me take double my antihistamine (Allegra all day) for 10 days, which I found did help. I read there may be some help for tinnitus by taking Bendryl but it seems kind of thin in the evidence department. Anyway, talk to your ENT and see what he/she thinks about you trying an antihistamine like Benedryl. I figure it’s worth a try and I did find the temporary doubling up of my Allegra did help with the dizziness (the doc said I could use Benedryl to the same effect with the dizziness but I had Allegra so that was easier, plus Benedryl will either put me to sleep or make me jittery).


Dana Talusani May 10, 2018 at 7:53 am

Allegra helped? Wow. I will definitely call him. Benadryl makes me drunk but if Allegra works for some people, I’m giving it a shot. Thank you.


Alison April 24, 2015 at 10:00 pm

Oh god, I am so sorry. I get vertigo once in a while and it’s hell. I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you. Feel better soon!


katrina Kenison April 25, 2015 at 6:16 am

SO sorry to hear about all you’ve been through. These poor, fallible bodies! Thanks for the wonderful looking recipe. I think I’d toast a big handful of pine nuts and toss them in for the extra crunch. My go-to recipe enhancer. (Your “awkward segue” is my favorite transition of the week. Can I steal that??)


Dana Talusani April 25, 2015 at 7:16 am


You an steal any and all of my awkwardness. :)


Naptimewriting April 25, 2015 at 5:59 pm

Oh, honey, I’m sorry.

You will hate this suggestion, but is there a chance popping your own popcorn and sprinkling with nutritional yeast will be enough to tide you over?

And maybe, to calm the tinnitis, stop the inner ear fucking. Oh, wait, you said fuckery. I get it now. I thought you were misusing your inner ear in ill-advised ways that I wouldn’t judge but might still suggest that you stop. Never mind. My mistake.


Dana Talusani April 27, 2015 at 11:14 am


What is this nutritional yeast you speak of? Would it require a trip to (shudder) a health food store? But then again, I am supposed to watch my sodium intake and what is the purpose of popcorn if it doesn’t have tons of yummy salt on it. Waaaa! I am fucked!


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes April 27, 2015 at 3:34 am

Oh my poor dear!
That is quite the shitstorm!
I’m crossing all my fingers and toes, hoping it will be better soon.


Sherri April 30, 2015 at 5:38 am

I’ve had an ear infection only once in my life, and it was as an adult. My vertigo was so bad, I missed a whole week of work, and if I sat up, I threw up right away – horrible. I totally sympathize with you – hope you’re feeling better. Can’t believe you actually cooked with all this going on! Total trooper :)


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