“I contracted a flu virus just over two years ago and developed tinnitus in my right ear. A year later it was in both ears. I remember vividly the day it plunged into my life. It was a wet Monday morning and I was at work when, out of nowhere, there was a high-pitched ringing in my right ear. The noise was so acute it was almost painful.
At first, I found the tinnitus unbearable to cope with. I’d wake up in the night with palpitations wondering if it would ever go away. I started to listen to music to block it out. I’d wear my headphones during the day at work and then I’d play tunes to help me fall asleep. But often I’d drop off with the music playing, only to find I’d turned up the volume accidentally, and I’d wake up with Eminem blaring out in my ears. Unfortunately, I think this reckless behaviour triggered tinnitus in my left ear, which hadn’t been there before.
Now I have a constant high-pitched noise in my ears that I can only describe as the sound of a heart-rate monitor flat-lining. It’s much worse in my right ear but present in my left ear too, at a slightly different pitch. The tinnitus is accompanied by high-frequency hearing loss, which means I struggle to hear soft sounds.
Being diagnosed with tinnitus gave me a huge sense of loss. I had perfect hearing before but I often can’t hear over the tinnitus. It gets louder in stressful scenarios, especially at work. I’m a wheelchair user who suffers from Muscular Dystrophy, so my stress levels are high anyway and it’s definitely made them worse. The tinnitus is loudest when I’m lying down, so almost deafening on waking. Once I’m up, and drink a coffee, it subsides. But I’m never at peace.
I’m careful to turn the music off before going to sleep now and don’t listen to it at work anymore.
I think there’s very little knowledge out there about tinnitus and how debilitating it can be. People just don’t understand how hard it is to live with, especially in noisy situations.
I have managed tinnitus by talking about the problem with my family, audiologists and groups like Action on Hearing Loss to get the proper advice I felt I needed. Last year I also joined the Cambridge Tinnitus Support Group, where I met several people who understand what I feel and what I have gone through. Finally, it made me realise it wasn’t something that I’d have to deal with alone.”
If you’re affected by tinnitus and would like support and information, please contact our Tinnitus Helpline.