A young woman, from Newport, has opened up about her battle with tinnitus that left her feeling ‘depressed’ and how she eventually found light at the end of the tunnel.
Normally described as a ringing, whooshing or hissing in the ears, tinnitus is often triggered after being exposed to loud noises like music. One in ten people in the UK have experienced it at least once, but for around 10% of the population the persistent sound never goes away.
Despite the earliest reference of the condition stemming as far back as Ancient Egypt, scientists are still baffled as to why the brain creates this repetitive sound. To help spread awareness of the condition and encourage people to protect their hearing, national charity Action on Hearing Loss is asking people on social media to describe what their tinnitus sounds like and explain how it affects them using the hashtag #ThisIsTinnitus.
Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive at Action on Hearing Loss said: “Tinnitus can be an isolating experience that leaves people feeling helpless. By encouraging others to take part in the campaign we hope more will share their experiences to shed light on this misunderstood condition and show how it affects them. Celebrities Phillip Schofield, Susanna Reid and Will.i.am have in the past opened up about their ongoing struggles with tinnitus, and this year musician KT Tunstall is helping the charity with #ThisIsTinnitus by sharing her own video.”
One of the people taking part in our campaign is Jessica Berg, 31, from Newport in Wales, who has been living with tinnitus for 2 and a half years. Although she has found a way to manage the condition, her journey is an ongoing one.
She said: “One morning I woke up with a high-pitched noise in my head. I didn’t know where it came from, there was no big moment, no loud bang, not even a big night out the night before, but two weeks down the line it had not stopped. My local GP sent me to an audiology clinic and the doctor concluded that my tinnitus was most likely to have been caused by exposure to loud music over a period of years.
“I’m a bit of a rock chick and I love going to gigs and listening to loud music. But in my defence, I had never even heard of tinnitus and certainly had never been advised to wear ear protection in loud places, and neither had anyone else I knew.
“I started suffering with depression, feeling anxious in crowds, and my self-worth took a nose dive. Tinnitus was fighting me on all fronts, making everything I used to do feel impossible.
“Life changed for me when I agreed to go on a trip with my friends. I almost didn’t go – but my friends are very persuasive, so reluctantly, I agreed to join them. The trip flipped everything back around. Although I still had some difficult days and sleepless nights, I also remembered what life was all about: having fun with my friends, meeting amazing new people and witnessing breath-taking scenery. As my self-esteem started to grow again, I realised I had let tinnitus take over my life but knew I couldn’t let it any longer.”
Jess who is also fronting the charity’s #DontLoseTheMusic campaign, urging people to wear ear plugs when in noisy venues, added: “I now make sure I take care of my mental health as well as physically protecting my ears from getting worse by using ear plugs.”
If you want to share your experiences of living with tinnitus, make a short video clip and post it on Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #ThisIsTinnitus and help make a difference.
But the charity does not want to stop there, to help fight what can be for some a debilitating condition Action on Hearing Loss is also currently funding several research projects to try and understand why we hear tinnitus, how it develops in the brain, and its relationship with stress – in the hope it will eventually lead to a cure.
If you think you have tinnitus, the first step is to see your GP. They will check your ears and refer you to a specialist for tests and support if needed.
The organisation has also compiled a number of tips to help manage the condition:
- USE CALMING MUSIC AND SOUNDS – this can help to take your mind off your tinnitus by making it less noticeable. It can help you to relax and fall asleep.
- LEARN MORE ABOUT IT – understanding what tinnitus is, what causes it, how common it is and how you can manage it, can be reassuring. There is plenty of advice and resources on the charity website.
- USE HEARING AIDS IF YOU ALSO HAVE HEARING LOSS – not only will hearing aids help you hear better, but a background of environmental sounds can help to mask the sound of your tinnitus.
- LEARN TO RELAX – stress can make tinnitus worse, so knowing how to reduce your stress levels can help you to manage it.
- CHAT TO OTHERS – sharing experiences and tips with others who have tinnitus can be really useful. You can join the latest discussions on our online Tinnitus forum, or visit a support group.
- LET FAMILY AND FRIENDS KNOW HOW IT AFFECTS YOU – then they’ll be better equipped to support you. Our factsheet ‘How to help friends and family with tinnitus’ has useful information.
- TAKE STEPS TO IMPROVE YOUR GENERAL HEALTH – a well-balanced diet and regular exercise will improve your overall wellbeing and may help you to cope with tinnitus more easily. Your GP can give you more advice.