Hi. My name is Ron and I, like you, have tinnitus. I am also profoundly deaf in one ear and have ongoing balance and nausea issues. I have had these issues for some time, they all occurred suddenly without warning in November 2004.
The purpose of my story is to let others know that it is possible to live an extremely full and positive life with tinnitus and minor hearing disabilities. I have managed to overcome most, if not all, the obstacles that people with tinnitus have, and I must say it has been an enriching and interesting journey. I truly believe that my life is now somewhat better than what it was before tinnitus came along (though I had a pretty good one before).
I hope in some way, whatever stage you are at with tinnitus, my story will provide you with some of the tools and encouragement to allow you to work through and move forward in a positively with your life.
One thing I discovered is that tinnitus is very personal, in that the level and intensity of the noises will vary from person to person, so it is not my intention to compare what I hear to what you, the reader, may hear. Suffice to say that the symptoms are usually similar.
Firstly, the most difficult issue that I had to deal with was “what are these weird and loud noises in my head? Where are they coming from? Have I had a stroke, as my head feels all funny? I can’t hear as well and I can’t walk in a straight line…Am I going to die” and on and on. I was very frightened and sought medical advice. This, in all due respects, left me more afraid, after the mandatory tests proved that all was seemingly OK, the outcome was that, most likely, I would be deaf forever and the noises in my head would stay as well. Basically that was it. After that, the information given to me was simply housed in the following statement “Ron you will just have to live with it”. Yeah right…
In reality, though, there is a certain truth in the statement “just live with it” but that it would have served me better if it was delivered somewhat differently. Perhaps with, “Yes Ron you will have to live with tinnitus and deafness, here are a number of suggestions and resources that will help you adjust to your new life with tinnitus”. How refreshing would it have been to hear those words.
So with the former in mind and a plethora of emotions to work through, not to mention work, family and social issues, I was on my way.
So here I am with a minimal knowledge of tinnitus - my first stop was the internet to find out as much information as I could. I then set about monitoring what situations seemed to inflame the noises and, given I had to stop work for some time, I found activities such as swimming and computers seemed to mask the noises. I sought all manner of natural therapy cures, none of which seemed to work, so frustration played an important role in my acceptance process.
My friends and family were a poor source of inspiration as they couldn’t see anything particularly wrong with me in a physical sense, so they assumed I must be OK. As well, friends generally responded that they also knew other people with tinnitus, which was cold comfort. I decided that it was best practice to only inform people on a ‘need to know’ basis, particularly socially, as being deaf in one ear certainly has created some interesting social situations.
Eventually, after a couple of months and the use of a phone book, I came across an audiology clinic and subsequently Tinnitus SA, both were invaluable in terms of understanding my situation and as a source of knowledge. The fact is once you understand more about how tinnitus works it is far easier to accept and the payoff is you tend to hear it less. I made it a personal goal to accept my tinnitus and hearing loss as totally permanent and was determined to ensure that I would still lead a good and valuable life with it.
I therefore set about changing my life.
Given I had to stop work as a Stonemason (balance issues etc) I decided that it was time to look for other opportunities, so I started my own software design company designing unique sporting analysis software. I can honestly say that without the onset of tinnitus this may have never happened. I saw my circumstances as an opportunity to do something else with my life. I have also been learning to play the guitar and sing. I am now back at work full time as a Stonemason and exercise quite vigorously most days. I am in my 50’s so age is no excuse or barrier to change.
In general I do not hear my tinnitus most of the time now, but when I do, yes, it can be annoying, seems very loud and sometimes my head aches, but this is all normal and it will go away because my body has simply become used to it. I have also noted that some types of stress, which will vary of course from person to person, can sometimes seem to exacerbate the tinnitus, so it may be wise to eliminate some of the stress that is personal to you. I have found that a few quiet minutes resting or perhaps reading a book can work wonders.
I remember in the early days I quite often heard the noises in both ears and I decided that when I did, I would play a little game and name the noises as a song, eg. when I was hearing helicopters, thunder etc I would just tune into the ‘helicopter (or whatever) song’. This seemed to work as it was like having my own inbuilt radio station and as a result my body saw it as a positive situation and hence I now only hear noises in one ear - the deaf ear - which is a victory of sorts.
I could talk at more length about tinnitus but what I would like to say is that it is quite normal to feel scared, alone and depressed in the early stages whilst the body is adapting. I experienced all those emotions and more but I do know that with time, you can work through those stages and come out OK at the other end. I would suggest to you that it is important to gain as much information about tinnitus as you can in the early stages and that this information may come from sources other than your local GP. I would also suggest that trying to find a cure is probably not a path to go down but rather a path of acceptance will bring far greater rewards.
In closing, I do hope my brief story has at the very least given you the opportunity to read about another person with similar issues and I hope that whatever stage you are at you will be able to move forward. I am sure you will.
All the best, Ron