I’ve never known silence. As far back as I can remember, I’ve never been without a background of tinnitus. But its intensity varied. I only noticed it when my day was quiet, when I stopped, or when someone mentioned it, and then it would take over my whole thoughts. I could not run from it. And even if I ran, exercise only replaced it with noisy breathing and a pounding pulse.
Like many of my relatives, I started to lose hearing in one ear. The hearing in my other ear was normal. I was told it was nerve deafness and a hearing aid would not help. Later, I was offered a cochlear implant but I’d had so much surgery in other areas that I could not even bear the thought of having more.
My hearing got worse. Suddenly, I realised I could no longer detect where a sound came from. I had lost directional hearing. “I am here”, they’d say. “Thanks very much. Where’s that?”, I would reply.
Then the vertigo attacks came. Intermittently, then frequently until had the trio of tinnitus, vertigo and deafness. I had to leave my job as I was getting an attack of vertigo every two days. I could not read for more than 60 minutes a day. It was torture.
I sought help, as just being stoic was not enough. My doctors were kind but blunt. “It’s not a cancer, it’s not a tumour, it’s not Alzheimer’s, although you’re old enough for it”. Thank you, I said. But they said that they would do what they could for me. They could progressively use a series of treatments until I responded. After 18 months away from the surgery, the vertigo stopped. The medication and time finally helped.
I’ve got my life back now. The tinnitus is still there and I’m still deaf in one ear but I know the benefit of distraction, of background noise and the use of mindfulness.
I’m told that many people have tinnitus, and one of my colleagues did a study where he placed people in an ultra-quiet room and detected that 25% of people will have tinnitus. For me, it was obvious since I was a child…