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      Sophie's story

      Sophie, 25, from Ross on Wye, often can’t distinguish ‘real’ noises from her tinnitus, which she finds incredibly distressing. But she has learned to manage with the help of various products and technology.

      “I’ve had tinnitus for as long as I can remember. I was always aware of it but I didn’t know what it was, or that it was called tinnitus, until I was much older. I just thought it was normal and that everybody heard what I was hearing. It’s connected to my partial hearing loss, which I’ve had since birth, caused by swelling on the brain.

      On a day-to-day basis, tinnitus is an incredibly frustrating and debilitating condition to live with. I often think I’m hearing something – and it just isn’t there. I have a 10-month-old daughter and I often think she’s crying so I rush up the stairs – only to find she’s fast asleep and it’s just the tinnitus. It’s very upsetting. Sometimes the tinnitus is so high-pitched I think I’m hearing the smoke alarm, which puts me on edge, especially when I’m home alone.

      Generally speaking, the tinnitus is worse at night or when it’s quiet. But I go through bad patches, where it’s more noticeable than others. A few weeks ago I developed a sharp ‘buzzing’ noise, which lasted for a few weeks, then subsided again. I find that the tinnitus even ‘echoes’ what I’ve heard earlier in the day or even weeks before.

      Living with tinnitus is not easy, but I have learned to cope. I put TV or music on if it’s really bugging me in the daytime. Or I busy myself to detract from the noise. I read that hearing aids help, but I already wear them anyway.

      I have adapted my home life to manage. I now have a pager, which vibrates when the doorbell rings or the smoke alarm goes off, and another gadget that detects my baby crying so I’m not rushing up and down the stairs every five minutes! My husband is very understanding too and has become my ‘ears’.

      I find that noisy environments can aggravate the tinnitus so I avoid them if I can – this can affect my social life at times, but in all honesty it doesn’t feel like much of a sacrifice to protect my ears.”