According to the BSA, an estimated 13.2% of the British population suffer with persistent tinnitus (1 in 8). On average there are over 1 million GP Consultations that take place every year regarding tinnitus, costing the NHS around £750m. With this figure in mind, it was no surprise that the theme for this years 'Tinnitus Week' was funding.
The Top 5 Most Annoying Things About Tinnitus
Tinnitus can be a ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling or other noise. The sensation can be constant or intermittent and it can vary in volume, it can also be in sync with your heartbeat - this is known as Pulsatile Tinnitus.
I've had tinnitus for around 6 years now, caused by some over the top, unnecessarily bass heavy headphones and a real lack of education about Hearing Health. This list is 'My Top 5 Most Annoying Things About Tinnitus' and like everyone's tinnitus, it's unique to me!
The First Year is Generally the Worst
I remember the first time I heard my tinnitus, everything else stopped and I focused solely on this annoying ringing that just would not subside. 3 hours went by and still no relief, what on Earth is this and why is it happening? The first night’s sleep with tinnitus was probably the worst, I couldn't focus on anything else but this ringing sound in both ears. Looking back I think I was lucky to get an hour that night!
Weeks went by and this irritating sound was all I could focus on, some google research brought me to the self-diagnosis of 'Tinnitus', which, when brought on by increased exposure to loud noises, is often permanent. Wow, I'll have this forever? The first year was by far the worst, and it was actually a dark, lonely place when all you can do is focus on the ringing in your ears that nobody else can hear. Trying to control your mind to focus on anything else other than your tinnitus is one of the most important techniques you can do and I realised that probably 8 months too late.
Generally, Habituation takes place after about a year, for me it did anyway. Hopefully, touch wood, my tinnitus won't get worse than it did in the first year, but that doesn't mean I don't notice it every now and again!
The Visit to the GP
After around 3-months, I decided to go to the GP, I probably left it too long, but I wanted to see if it went away on its own (it obviously didn't). I think that visit to my local doctor's surgery was one of the most frustrating experiences I've had with the NHS. I put on a pair of headphones and was given a clicker and told to press it when I heard a beep, that was it. No consultation, just a decade old sound machine. I was told there and then that was "Nothing that could be done" and that was the end of it.
I left the GP's office feeling totally deflated and annoyed. It wasn't the GP's fault; they have to be knowledgeable in hundreds of areas and are expected to be experts in all of those remits. However, with 1 in 8 now suffering from tinnitus, maybe GP's should be more versed in the condition, carrying out more tests and offering further advice, either through referrals to ENT or to some of the specialist tinnitus clinics or charities.
This visit was back in 2014, before I moved to a big city for University. I was living in a small seaside town with absolutely no specialist clinics in sight, which limited my access to a better standard of care. It was me, myself and I vs tinnitus.
Can You Hear That?
Although (thankfully) my tinnitus is fairly limited to; Nightclubs, illness, stress and quiet rooms these days, it doesn't mean I haven't bugged my Fianceé on a monthly basis whenever there might be an unusual sound emitting from somewhere, say an alarm in a galaxy, far, far away.
Hypersensitivity for me is a by-product of over obsessing in the first year, and consequently I'm now more aware of sounds that perhaps others aren't. I think Samantha say's "Yes, I can hear that too" just to appease me nowadays. We've also had a fan on every night for the last 5 years which she just gets on with despite it annoying her so I don't blame her for saying "Yes Dylan, I hear that, give it a rest!"
Tinnitus "spikes" still occur and they're awful. For around 10 or 20 seconds my hearing will suddenly drop, and the high-pitched ringing sound becomes extremely loud, for literally no apparent reason! Even though I'm mostly habituated now, it still annoys me when a tinnitus spike happens, it brings with it a sense of dread too "will it be like this forever?" fortunately it subsides, I shake my head and carry on! I'm still not sure why tinnitus spikes happen...but it sure is annoying.
Nightclubs, Loud Music and Hearing Protection
Now I've finished University, I visit nightclubs significantly less than I used to, but leaving clubs was always the worst experience, my tinnitus was so intense! It generally returned to normal levels within a day or so though. It sometimes got to the point where I'd leave halfway through a night because the music was too loud...
I'm an extrovert by nature, I love socialising and the thought of missing nights out with friends because of my ears, was a battle I simply wasn't willing to lose, it would have felt as if I'd let my tinnitus win if I'd have isolated myself.
The method I used to combat this was 'Hearing Protection', something I now take very seriously, especially when I go 'out out'. I've tried various hearing protection methods and ear plugs, some are too flimsy or not discreet enough, others simply don't do the job. My personal recommendation would be EGGZ - They're discreet, they filter out loud music effectively and you can still have a conversation with people when you wear them! You can purchase your own here - EGGZ Hearing Protection
That 'Miracle' Cure
This is perhaps one of the most annoying things about having tinnitus. During my first year of having the condition, I joined a few Facebook groups, mainly because I felt quite isolated. Whilst the community is generally okay, it can be massively toxic. This is in no small part thanks to people posting a news article from a completely unverified source about a 'miracle cure' that's on it's way or posting a link to a Chinese Herbal Medicine website where you can buy a '100% effective one pill solution to cure your tinnitus'. People in these groups can often be desperate (I don't blame them) and pin all their hopes on these "treatments" to no avail, it then sends them spiralling deeper into a dark hole. These companies also know how desperate these people can be and really play on that within their advertising.
Audiologist and Co-Founder of Hearing Aid Know, Geoffrey Cooling summed this issue up perfectly;
"I want to make this very clear, there is no cure, no magic pill, patch or herb which has been proven to cure or even reduce the impact of tinnitus. Those magic cures on the internet are simply rubbish, snake oil designed to take money from the desperate."
It's important to note that whilst there is no miracle cure for tinnitus, there are treatments that can help - you can find some of them here; Tinnitus Treatments - Hearing Aid Know
Well, there we have it, "My Top 5 Most Annoying Things About Tinnitus". Again, this list is my own personal viewpoint of my experience so far. Whilst it would be amazing if my tinnitus just up and left, I'd find it so strange to hear nothing after 6 years.
I think it's important to remember whilst there is no miracle cure, there are some amazing organisations that can offer you some effective treatment methods and have helplines available. I can't recommend the British Tinnitus Association enough. The work they're doing to not only educate GP's but enlighten the entire Audiology industry and general public is remarkable. They can be found here - British Tinnitus Association
Whilst tinnitus can be debilitating it's crucial to remember that the first year is the worst and that mind over matter really does play a key part in how effective your treatment will be. I've also seen a massive increase in treatment options in the 6 years' I've had tinnitus, whether that be CBT methods or Hearing Aid Manufacturers implementing the latest hi-tech tinnitus solutions to their devices.
The future looks bright.