My journey with hearing loss first started with tinnitus, somewhere around the age of 7 or 8. It was a quiet but constant buzzing in my ears, accompanied by a random, loud drum-beat whenever someone with a low voice spoke, or a car zoomed past, or certain music was played. It was sporadic enough to forget about it in-between incidents, yet disturbing enough to cause upset and anxiety when it was triggered. Worst of all, it was like a silent attacker that nobody else could hear or experience, leaving my anxiety and anger to appear completely random and unwarranted.
Picture Credit: Action on Hearing Loss
As the years passed, the tinnitus worsened to the point where I could constantly hear some form of loud buzzing or screeching in my head. But it was the drum-beat which still caused the most anxiety and stress, and it was only worsening. I would wake up in the night if a car went by. I discovered that the cellos in the orchestra would exacerbate the condition. Male teachers and classmates with breaking voices would trigger it off. It began to rule almost every aspect of my life, from who I could sit with and where, to which side of the road I could walk on. It was almost impossible for me to ignore, and the fact that nobody else could hear it led to feelings of isolation and despair.
I was extremely lucky to have received such amazing treatment on the NHS for my tinnitus through my teenage years. After numerous tests, I was referred to a specialist at the local hospital’s audiology department, where I received Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) and my first pair of white noise generating hearing aids (hearing aids which also let out white noise to ‘mask’ the sound of the tinnitus through the day, hopefully providing a distraction for the brain).
Picture: My first white noise generating hearing aids
The therapy not only helped me to take control of the negative emotions that came with my tinnitus, but it gave me my life back. I live in the knowledge that there is no cure for tinnitus and that it will be part of me for the rest of my life. And although I get the odd bad day, I rarely ever have the need to mention it because I have learnt (with the help of some amazing people) how to live with this noise. When my friends and family see me now, they have no idea that I can hear a symphony of sounds over their voices – a sign that the therapy worked.
Oh, and that annoying drum-beat? I discovered that it gets triggered on an F – a very handy tool for a musician, indeed!
Facts and Figures:
Tinnitus is commonly described as being a sound such as ringing, buzzing, or ticking, in a person's ear(s) and/or head. The sound and severity varies from person to person.
Most people find that tinnitus doesn’t affect them in any way. However, some people find it moderately annoying whilst others find it very troublesome.
Tinnitus is more common in people who have hearing loss or other ear problems, but it can also be found in people with normal hearing.
If you have hearing loss, can be helpful for tinnitus because they are restoring what you can’t otherwise hear.
About 30% of people will experience tinnitus at some point in their lives but 10% of people will experience persistent tinnitus.
There is no cure for tinnitus, but there are a range of strategies that you can use to minimise its intrusiveness, including relaxation exercises to reduce stress levels and using low-level sound in your environment.
This week (15th May – 21st May 2017) is Deaf Awareness Week. In celebration of the week and in a bid to raise awareness, I will be writing about important issues that link with hearing loss.