What is tinnitus?
Imagine an irritating sound, a whistle, a ringing or whining and then imagine listening to it 24/7. That’s tinnitus. Apparently about 10% of the world’s population suffer from it and tinnitus is the reason why I will never experience total silence.
I doubt whether we sufferers all experience tinnitus in the same way or indeed to the same degree, but I’d like to explain what it’s like for me.
What it’s like for me.
I think I’ve always suffered from tinnitus. I think my mother did as she used to say that she could hear humming under the ground! The sounds I hear are different in the morning when I first wake up from the sounds I get throughout the day. Almost like changing the radio station! When I first wake up I get ‘screaming children’ which drowns out ALL sound. (I can hear some noises and sounds as I’m partially hearing.) If Chris speaks to me he has to be really close to my ear as hearing aids aren’t in yet.
When I put my hearing aids in (after first putting on my glasses so I can find the things!) the screaming children are replaced by whistles. Here in the relative silence of the living room I can hear 3 continuous notes. There may be 4, I can’t tell. These notes are similar to the sounds that are played to you at a hearing test – an electronic whistle. One is a low note, one is mid-range and there’s also a very high piercing whistle to top it off. As I said before, there may be another one – mid-range I think. Without a doubt, tinnitus has made me more deaf. It gets in the way of what I can actually hear.
These sounds originate in the middle of my brain. Rather like listening to balanced music through headphones, you can’t tell through which ear you’re hearing – it just sounds like it’s in the middle of your head.
How I cope.
As soon as I hear any external sound be it the TV, a voice, the dogs barking or a lawnmower outside, the tinnitus takes a back seat for as long as I’m listening to the new sound. I have trained myself to not listen to the tinnitus (except in a doctor’s waiting room maybe!) and even talk to myself when I’m alone. The radio or TV provide welcome background noise. I have developed my own ways of coping with tinnitus, but sadly many sufferers become depressed and in the worst case, suicidal because of the constant ringing in their ears.
Funnily enough my tinnitus doesn’t bother me at night when I’m trying to sleep. I hardly notice it, but here, now, writing about it and actually listening to it, it’s so annoying and I’m actually surprised at how loud it is!
Isn’t that strange?
Do you suffer with tinnitus? If so, what form does it take and how do you cope with it? I’d be very interested to know.
You may also find out more about tinnitus here.