“Tinnitus is something that’s always been with me as long as I can remember. It’s connected to my sensorineural hearing loss, which I was born with and inherited from my father.
Hearing loss and tinnitus have both had a huge impact all my life. I wasn’t fitted with hearing aids until I was 17, so schooling was a challenge and as a teenager I struggled to interact socially with my peers. I often felt I missed out on crucial conversations and on hearing vital background noises. I suffered hugely with anxiety and depression and took anti-depressants for a while.
My tinnitus is more noticeable sometimes than others but I can never cancel it out completely. It varies a lot in tone and in volume. It gets much worse when I’m ill or stressed and is also very bad when I go through another period of hearing loss. It can be anything from a tiny buzzing noise or a pipe whistling and other times it suddenly turns into a drowning noise – so loud that it’s almost painful. Sometimes I am even physically aware of it starting. I feel pressure building in the base of my skull – like a tension headache – and the noises get louder.
I don’t always hear the same sounds, which makes it difficult to know if it’s tinnitus or not. Sometimes it almost seems to mimic other sounds, so I’m not sure if what I’m hearing is real or just a phantom noise. For the sake of my sanity, I often ask the person I’m with if they can hear what I’m hearing. It’s embarrassing but it stops me from feeling like I’m losing my mind.
Sometimes I find really focusing on it helps it go away and other times distraction with music or background noise is also effective. I attended an NHS tinnitus support group in 2015, which was helpful, but I found it hard to relate to the other attendees as they were a lot older than me and had different levels of hearing difficulties. But the leader was very nice and gave me guided meditation and relaxation exercises which have worked to an extent.
Despite my hearing difficulties, I’m currently studying for a BSc in International Events Management with Arts and Entertainment at Sheffield Hallam University. I feel hugely proud of what I’ve achieved but every day is a struggle. I still find it hard to concentrate and I can sometimes feel quite isolated if my friends are having a laugh about something but I can’t hear what they’re saying.
Living with tinnitus and hearing loss is not easy. I have my bad days, but I try and focus on what makes me feel good. I bought a Cockerpoo called Poppy last year. She’s a puppy and needs lots of attention but she really helps me deal with my anxiety. I also don’t need to worry about misunderstanding what she says!
I know I face many obstacles that simply wouldn’t be there if I wasn’t hearing impaired. There’s not a day that goes by where I wish things were different. But I think I cope as well as I can. Talking about it definitely helps. In the meantime, I want to raise awareness so that someday, someone might find a cure for the noises inside my head.”