Sunday, 12 February 2012

Tinnitus Awareness Week

I'm a bit late with this, but today is the final day of Tinnitus Awareness Week.
More info can be found at Action on Hearing Loss (previously called RNID).

My tinnitus started suddenly one afternoon in 2001 and has only stopped briefly once since then. Our TV at the time used to hum some times, so I initially assumed it was that until I went into the kitchen and the sound still persisted. After repeatedly pushing on my ears with my fingers and swallowing to see if my ears wanted to pop, I discovered that this irritating noise wasn't going away. I had great difficulty getting to sleep that night and found this sudden intrusion on my daily life upsetting and irritating. It's a constant very high-pitch squeal or whine which becomes louder if I put my fingers in my ears. I am also over-sensitive to loud noises and can struggle to catch conversation in places with lots of background noise.

At the doctors, I was first prescribed antibiotics (due to a suspected infection) and then had my ears syringed. Neither helped and I was referred to the Ear, Nose and Throat department, with my doctor saying, "You should get used to it, as you're probably stuck with it for life now!" ENT were very nice and I had 2 hearing tests with them with the conclusion that I had no hearing loss. They confirmed I was quite young to have it and didn't know why. I was advised that they have a regular clinic for helping people cope, but luckily by that time I had habituated and no longer felt anxious.

So, how is it now and what have I done about it?
I still have tinnitus and it's become a part of me really. Yes, I'd be delighted if it stopped, but I'm lucky that I don't notice it for most of the time unless it's worse due to stress or illness.

Here's what I've done (and still do some) to help:

  • Wear earplugs at the cinema and at any event with louder than normal noise levels
  • Had acupuncture and shiatsu - neither have got rid of it, but have helped with my over-sensitivity to noise and to feel less anxious at the initial on-set
  • Taken ginkgo biloba for 12 months - unfortunately this didn't have any effect for me personally
  • Attended lip reading classes to help with conversation in loud environments - I cannot recommend these enough! Maggie Short is a wonderful teacher and I use lip reading every day
  • Signed up to the Action on Hearing Loss tinnitus forum
  • Taken herbs prescribed by a qualified practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine - for a period when my tinnitus was extremely loud and assisted in getting back to normal levels
  • Use a guided meditation or sounds of nature app on my iPod touch to take my focus away, or if I'm having problems getting to sleep
  • Go for a run - this generally helps most things! 
  • Listen to music or do some thing I enjoy, so that I don't notice it so much.  


  1. Thank you for sharing this Anita. I am glad that you have learned to cope with it. There is still so much that we don't know in medicine.

  2. Oh ear problems, the crux of my life. I plan on doing a formal post about this in the future, but I know somewhat of where you're coming from. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks for your comments, caribbean princess & kanalt. I do consider myself lucky compared with many people, who either have hearing loss or cannot cope with their tinnitus. It's not like I'm in pain or anything, but the early days sure were tough.