This week is Tinnitus Awareness week so I thought I would give you all a bit of an insight into a life with tinnitus.
Along with my hearing loss in February 2014, I made a new friend; Tinnitus. But it is not a happy friendship we share, it is more like that really irritating friend you cannot get rid of, no matter how hard you try. In fact, the harder you try to get rid of it, the more persistent it becomes.
My tinnitus doesn’t conform to the “normal” tinnitus description, I.e. buzzing, ringing noises generally associated with tinnitus but rather I get church bells, motorbike like sounds and occasionally even cats and dogs screaming – you can see why we have a ‘hate’ relationship.
I used to only have tinnitus in my right ear which was the ear with no hearing whatsoever, but after my recent hearing loss, I now have tinnitus in both ears (oh joy!) so there is no escaping it. Before the most recent hearing loss, when I put on my CI, I was able to temporarily get rid of the tinnitus because my brain was focusing on the sounds received through the implant but now I constantly have a ringing/church bell/motorbike/other weird sounds in my left ear which I am always aware of.
I had forgotten how exhausting it is having tinnitus, it is a sound or sounds that never leave you from the minute you wake up to the minute you fall asleep. It gets in the way of you hearing natural sounds and sometimes it makes you feel like you are going mad!
There is no such thing as silence for a tinnitus sufferer as you never truly experience the feeling of silence again, in fact, when your environment is quiet, it only serves to make your tinnitus all the more present.
I recently went out for dinner with my husband and had forgotten to pack spare batteries for my CI in my bag and lo, and behold, halfway through our meal my processor starts beeping at me to warn me it was about to die. Typical. As I was with my husband, I wasn’t too concerned as I knew we would still be able to communicate with each other with me reverting back to lip-reading. If I had been out with anyone else, I think I would have made my excuses and left because it was hard work. It was strange to be sitting there unable to hear the noises of people chattering, background music, cutlery clanging but be surrounded by the noise of tinnitus. I think that is the most isolating feeling about hearing loss for me personally, feeling so far removed from your environment.
There are of course, techniques that you can utilise to cope with the tinnitus, and it is often said, that after time you will just get used to it and become less aware of it but generally speaking, there is no “cure” for tinnitus. For some of us though the coping techniques are useless, for example, music is believed to be a great method of reducing the effects of tinnitus, especially when you are attempting to sleep, but when you have a near total loss of hearing how are you meant to listen to the music without the use of hearing aids or CI’s?
My own personal coping mechanism at night is a rather strange one; I make up stories based on the sounds I can hear and lull myself to sleep with that – it means I often have some rather bizarre dreams but it works for me.
Aside from potential sleep deprivation, tinnitus can bring a whole host of side effects; mood swings, headaches and can result in depression in sufferers. It is, like hearing loss, an invisible disability – no one knows you are suffering from tinnitus but it can be an extremely debilitating condition.
What kind of friend is your tinnitus? I’d love to hear your experiences and personal tips!