When Tinnitus Stole My Silence

Published: Feb 11th, 2016

woman struggling with tinnitusTinnitus Awareness Week is an important time of year for the D/deaf and hard of hearing community. Especially for those who, like me, are relatively new to the experience of having an endless ringing and buzzing in the ear, that penetrates my thoughts, and overwhelms every aspect of my daily life.

Without the support of charities such as Deaf Unity and Action on Hearing Loss, I’m very sure the frustration, anxiety and distress that comes with the condition would have driven me to emotional despair.

Thankfully there is a lot of advice and information out there for sufferers on how to better manage tinnitus symptoms and learn to cope with the effects these have on emotional well-being. In this blog I will talk more about my tinnitus and how I have come to terms with this life-long condition. I will also aim to provide some handy tips on how you too can learn to cope and not let it affect your quality of life.

The Ringing Begins

It was August 31st at 9pm when the ringing started. I was in bed early after a long bank holiday weekend settling down with a book. I had been lying there for a couple of minutes when I noticed there was a rather loud droaning in my left ear. From time to time I have experienced similar sounds, but these tended to vary from intermittent popping sounds to a random 2 minutes of constant ringing. Therefore, at first I was not too alarmed, but it was after an hour of trying to ignore the ringing and failing to fall asleep that I began to worry.

As a former health content writer, I had come across tinnitus before. As a hard of hearing individual, I was aware of what it entailed and how it affected people – particularly those with hearing problems like myself. However, it was always one of those things I never thought would actually trouble me. Young, fit and healthy, with only what I considered to be ‘mild’ hearing loss, I thought tinnitus was completely off of my radar. How wrong I was.

That August evening I cried for hours. I couldn’t sleep, and I was in turmoil about what this inescapable, increasingly loud and unbearable sound meant for my future. I could feel every inch of my being reacting to the noise – my head hurting, my ears aching, my insides churning. “How do people live with this?” I thought. “How will I ever learn to cope?”

A Period of Adjustment

After 3 days of hardly any sleep, visits to A&E and my local GP, I finally felt a bit more ‘normal’. I was back at work and finding comfort in the fact that keeping busy and being around noise was the only way I could drown out the ringing. Whilst before I loved being on my own, with my hearing aids out, soaking up the silence, now it’s my worst nightmare. Tinnitus has stolen my silence. I can no longer enjoy the calmness and stillness of the world when I am not wearing my hearing aids.

Over the next few months I contacted hearing charities, visited forums and made more of an effort to join in activities such as lip reading classes and volunteering. Talking to people who understood what I was going through helped massively. Although I found some of the discussions on forums quite scary (many of them from sufferers who were really struggling with their symptoms) overall it gave me better perspective.

Ultimately, no matter how invasive and troubling tinnitus can be, it’s not life threatening. Although it may seem utterly life changing, it is not an excuse to give up and let it get to you. Tinnitus may be another stark reminder that I am going deaf and that my hearing is failing me, but this period of transition was making me realise more than ever that I am better than my hearing loss and all the difficulties that come with it. I will not be defined by my tinnitus or by the aids in my ears. The constant ringing may try to take over my emotional and phsycial well-being, but I am determined not to let it win.

Gearing Up For The Future & Learning To Cope

Several months on, my tinnitus is still very much alive and kicking. I’ve noticed symptoms are also occuring in my right ear, although the ringing in this ear is far less pronounced. As my brain and body have adjusted to the sounds, I have found it easier, over time, to ignore them. Although I will never reclaim my long-enjoyed silence, I have reclaimed my composure and ability to get up, rub myself down, and move on. Of course where my hearing is concerned there will always be challenges that test my resilience and throw me into a state of confusion and upset, but I do believe that each one of them makes me stronger.

Where tinnitus is concerned, reading up on it, sharing my experiences with others, and taking a proactive role in self-management has helped a great deal. This is what I consider to be the most effective means of living in harmony with the condition. Volunteering with Deaf Unity has played a vital role in helping me to feel less isolated and alone with my heairng loss – something I feel can exacerbate my tinnitus.

What do you do to manage your tinnitus? Please share your comments below.

Facts About Tinnitus

  • Nearly 50% of people in the UK have tinnitus
  • Around 600,000 of these people have tinnitus so bad it impacts their quality of life.
  • The majority of people with tinnitus also experience some kind of hearing loss.
  • Therapies such as sound therapy, hypnotherapy and counselling can help your mind and body to cope better with symptoms.

Find free support and information at Action on Hearing Loss.

By Tamara Marshall

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