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Blog: Living with tinnitus

BHelen Thomy Helen Thom, Hearing Link volunteer

It was around ten years ago that I first began suffering from tinnitus. A botched ear syringing caused a dramatic loss of hearing in my right ear. Coping with that was difficult enough, but the resulting tinnitus, which I experienced as a loud, screeching whistle, was very stressful and upsetting. It was also very frightening because I had no idea what was causing it or how long it would last.

At that time, my tinnitus rarely abated, and at times it caused me such distress that I remember feeling strongly that I would be able to cope fine with the hearing loss if only the tinnitus would go. It left me feeling exhausted and very frustrated. My friends and family were all very understanding, but I’m sure at times it made me grumpy and irritable too! I am a primary school teacher and had to concentrate very hard to hear the children’s voices clearly:  the constant tinnitus only exacerbated the situation.

Gradually I learned a few coping strategies and, although the tinnitus in my left ear has never gone away, I experience it now as a sound rather like the one you hear when you put your ear to a sea shell, and it is manageable. However, as the hearing in my right ear deteriorated I began to experience tinnitus there too. This time it was less predictable and could take the form of whistling, screeching and buzzing.  It disturbed my sleep and somehow I found this more difficult to cope with. I remember becoming very upset at a routine hearing test and telling the audiologist that I just couldn’t distinguish the sounds she played me from all the noises that were going on in my head!

You will notice that I write in the past tense, as luckily for me my tinnitus has much improved since I became the recipient of a cochlear implant last year. I sympathise with anyone suffering from this miserable condition and look forward to the day when a cure can be found.

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