A year ago, completely out of nowhere, I developed the most horrendous ringing in my right ear, a constant, high pitched buzzing sound that slowly but surely, drove me insane! After realising that it wasn’t going away any time soon, I went to the doctors who diagnosed tinnitus, and referred me to the Ear, Nose & Throat specialists at the hospital.
After having an MRI scan to rule out an acoustic neuroma, a benign tumour that can grow on the acoustic nerve, I was given the all clear, sent away and told that I would be referred to the tinnitus management service.
In the meantime I tried to read up as much as possible about tinnitus, having heard very little about the condition other than the fact that my Dad had suffered with it for as far back as I can remember. It turns out that tinnitus is the term for hearing sounds that come from inside your body, rather than from an outside source. We all have these sounds, just not all of us hear them.
There are many causes for tinnitus, but one of the main causes is repeated exposure to loud noise. You know when you’ve been in a club til the early hours, music blasting out so loud it could raise the roof, and how when you get into bed that night, along with that dreaded spinny drunk feeling, your ears are ringing like crazy? It’s kind of like that, but every second of every day.
And for my Dad, and many others like him, who have developed tinnitus due to working with machinery or in noisy environments, things were very different years ago before Health and Safety regulations kicked in. These days there are safety signs everywhere, warning workers to wear ear defenders, and take more care of their hearing.
Given the fact that I have never worked in a noisy environment and nor do I have any of the conditions that are known to cause tinnitus, it was assumed that mine has been caused due to nerve damage over the last few years, and exasperated by stress, insomnia and hypersensitivity.
Earlier this year I saw my specialist to discuss where we go from here as, if I’m completely honest, the tinnitus was causing me to become extremely depressed. I was told that one of my options would be to wear a hearing aid, a small device that fits discretely inside and over my ear, which not only improves my hearing but also plays a low frequency noise in order to train my brain to concentrate on the new noise, as opposed to the tinnitus.
And so for the last week I have been wearing it and, although self conscious at first, it has definitely helped to drown out the tinnitus during the day. And although at night when I take it out, the tinnitus is there just the same, eventually I am told that my brain will start to switch over to the point where the tinnitus is at a lower volume or, best case scenario, gone altogether.
Until last year I had no idea that a condition could be so debilitating, nor have such a huge impact on a persons mental health, and I am the first to warn people of the importance of looking after your hearing.
*** This is a collaborative post. All words and opinions are my own.***