Man’s mission on bike trek: Raise tinnitus awareness

EVERETT — Ed Ruttledge hears a constant, machine-like noise inside his head. The Vancouver, Washington, man has been living for years with a condition called tinnitus. It is the seeming presence of continuous sound, such as clinking, chirping or ringing.

Now Ruttledge, 68, is set to ride his bicycle 100 miles across Western Washington to raise money for tinnitus research. He plans to pedal his way from Everett to Vashon Island on Monday and expects to continue his Tour de Tinnitus to Olympia on Tuesday.

He has already received about $1,500 in donations for the American Tinnitus Association, which is based in Portland. It supports research into treatments and finding a cure.

For many, tinnitus is a mild irritant. But for some, including Ruttledge, it is debilitating. The affliction affects about 30 million Americans.

“I had a pretty traumatic hearing injury,” he said.

Ruttledge was hurt three years ago while he was sailing on a yacht in the Caribbean Sea. The crew did not see him and fired a signal cannon near his head.

The noise in his ears hasn’t stopped since.

“I don’t hear much of what’s going on outside but I do hear what’s going on inside,” he said. “It’s like the noise an electric machine makes.”

The hearing impairment that accompanied his tinnitus forced him to retire early from his job as the human resources director at Intercity Transit in Olympia. His wife of 40 years, Lynnae, also left her position as a presidential appointee at a federal agency in Washington, D.C.

“She had to adjust her commitment because she felt like she had to get home,” Ruttledge said.

He is no longer able to enjoy music, plays or movies.

“I hear squeeks and squaks,” Ruttledge said. “Thank God for the Internet.”

He has learned to go about his normal activities with the help of technology, including an advanced hearing aid and a bluetooth device that enables him to use his cellphone.

“A lot of technology has come along, fortunately, at the same time I incurred my injury,” Ruttledge said. “It’s not an untreatable condition.”

Although there is no cure, he said, there are ways people can cope with tinnitus.

Ruttledge installed carpet that reduces noise in his home. He bought an electric car that runs quietly so he can have conversations while driving.

Despite the limitations of his hearing, Ruttledge considers his story one of success. He said he is living a full life.

Now he wants to help prevent others from developing the condition by making more people aware that one loud sound, or being around constant noise, can lead to hearing problems.

Tinnitus is a common problem for people exposed to continuous noise, such factory workers. It is a growing issue for those serving in the military. The condition is now the top service-connected disability for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the ATA.

It’s also a common affliction for musicians. Rock stars Pete Townsend and Neil Young, along with Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, are among the famous people who have spoke publicly about their troubles with tinnitus.

William Shatner, the actor best known for his role as Captain Kirk on “Star Trek,” also suffers from the condition. His hearing was damaged as the result of a pyrotechnics accident while shooting an episode. Shatner has long been involved with the ATA.

Ruttledge hopes his journey can help the organization further research on tinnitus. His ride is one of four taking place around the country this summer to raise money. The goal for the combined treks is to bring in $5,000 for the American Tinnitus Association.

“It looks like we’re going to make it,” Ruttledge said.

To donate to Ruttledge’s ride, go to walk.ata.org.

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; anile@heraldnet.com.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Mike Rosen
Businessman Mike Rosen announces campaign for mayor of Edmonds

Rosen, a city planning board member, is backed by five former Edmonds mayors. It’s unclear if incumbent Mike Nelson will run again.

FILE - A Boeing 747-8, Boeing's new passenger plane, takes its first flight, Sunday, March 20, 2011, at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. After more than half a century, Boeing is rolling its last 747 out of a Washington state factory on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Boeing’s last 747 to roll off the Everett assembly line

The Queen of the Skies was dethroned by smaller, more fuel-efficient jets. The last 747s were built for a cargo carrier.

PUD workers install new transformers along 132nd Street on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Electric vehicles spur big forecast jump for PUD demand

Not long ago, the Snohomish County PUD projected 50,000 electric cars registered in the county by 2040. Now it expects up to 660,000.

Traffic moves northbound on I-5 through Everett on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Grinding work still needed for I-5 through Everett

Construction crews need warmer temps for the work to remove what a reader described as “mini raised speed bumps.”

After a day of learning to fight fires, Snohomish firefighter recruit Chau Nguyen flakes a hose as other recruits load the hoses onto a fire truck April 19, 2018, at the training facility on S. Machias Rd. in Snohomish. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)
Lawsuit: Everett firefighter sexually harassed numerous recruits

Chau Nguyen resigned earlier this year, long after the first complaint about his behavior at the county’s fire training academy.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of education.
Stanwood-Camano School Board seeks applicants for vacancy

Ken Christoferson, the district’s longest serving board member, resigned on Dec. 6.

The final 747 is rolled out of the factory on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Final 747 rollout signals end of an era for Boeing, Everett

After a 55-year run, the last of the “Queen of the Skies” emerged from the Everett assembly plant Tuesday evening.

Pilchuck Secret Valley Tree Farm owner Paul Dierck walks through a row of trees on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Christmas trees, a Washington cash crop, get a little more spendy

Christmas tree farms generate about $688,000 each season for Snohomish County farmers. Some are still open for business.

Marysville
Marysville to pay $1M to another former student for alleged sex abuse

The latest settlement marks the earliest known allegations against Kurt Hollstein, who worked in the district until last year.

Most Read