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Tuesday 7th February 2023

Tinnitus is a condition that impacts millions of people worldwide. It is usually characterised by a persistent ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling in the ear(s) that is not caused by an external source. This phantom noise can range from a mild annoyance to a debilitating condition that can affect a person’s quality of life.

Tinnitus can be caused by a variety of factors, including exposure to loud noise, certain medications, and underlying health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. It can also be a symptom of an ear infection or a side effect of a medical procedure.

The symptoms of Tinnitus can vary greatly from person to person and range from severe to mild. Some people may only experience occasional ringing or buzzing in the ears that comes and goes, while others may have a constant noise that is quite loud and difficult to ignore. The noise can be heard in one or both ears and can be high-pitched or low-pitched.

  • Around 13% of adults in the UK (7.1 million people) experience prolonged tinnitus
  • Exposure to loud noise is the leading cause of Tinnitus
  • Tinnitus is not harmful to the ear(s)

Recorra’s own Head of Sustainability, Rory Capper and Principle Cleaning’s Head of Sustainability, Shannon Berry both suffer with Tinnitus and have shared with us their real-life experience of living with the condition. Their personal accounts aim to promote awareness on the impacts of Tinnitus on their daily life, as well as provide hope for those who may be struggling with the condition.

How did you get Tinnitus and how were you diagnosed?

I started suffering with my Tinnitus after a heavy fall around five years ago. The fall resulted in life changing injuries, and I was hospitalised for three weeks. On my journey home from the hospital, I distinctly remember starting to hear a noise in my ears. I remember thinking ‘my ears have just popped because I’m going over a hill, it will go away soon’. Little did I know that this noise had been present for the last 3 weeks, and this was just the first time I had noticed it.

I'm not 100% sure how I got it. The most likely answer is that I got it from listening to music too loud as a teenager!

What does it feel like?

Tinnitus is different for each person. For me, the frequency of the noise and its volume changes, sometimes it is in one ear and sometimes both. The best way to describe my Tinnitus is like the screeching of an old internet dial-up tone. The type of noise and volume fluctuates sporadically. This is what my Tinnitus sounds like.

: My Tinnitus feels like high pitched ringing in both ears and occasionally feels as if my ears are blocked for 10-20 seconds.

How does it impact your life?

My Tinnitus is very quiet when I wear my hearing aids, so it’s almost inaudible when I have them in.

With my Tinnitus, the noise gets louder when my ear is working harder. The noise also escalates when I actively think about it or notice it, doing this interview has been particularly difficult.

When I take the hearing aids out at bedtime, if I am particularly tired or irritated about something, it becomes a much louder and has a bigger impact. Most of the time, my Tinnitus is managed by wearing my hearing aids and I can carry on with life as normal, however, it does become an irritation from time to time.

I remember in my early 20s suddenly being aware of this ringing in my ears. For a year or so I assumed it was normal because ‘everyone got ringing after being at a concert or festival’, mine just went on a little longer than others. When I was trying to get to sleep is when I would notice it the most.

Eventually I resorted to ‘Doctor Google’ and pages and pages of information came up about Tinnitus. Most of the advice was to not use in-ear headphones, avoid loud music and keep the volume down. I loosely followed this advice, mainly by replacing my headphones with on-ear ones. This was pre-noise cancelling was a common feature in devices.

I became more concerned in my mid-20s when I was struggling to hear in loud spaces. I realised I'd not had professional advice on my Tinnitus so went to the doctors to check there wasn't a correlation. They referred me to a specialist and within a couple of months I'd had my appointment.

The appointment consisted of answering a series of questions:

  •  ‘Is it in both ears?’
  • ‘Do you hear it all the time? Or just when it's quiet?’
  • ‘What makes it worse?’
  • ‘Is it impacting your day-to-day life and mental health?" etc.

The second part included sitting in a soundproof booth where they played different pitched sounds to test for hearing loss.

I was very glad to find out that I wasn't experiencing hearing loss, however, I did have Tinnitus. The Doctor gave me some good advice on how to protect my hearing and spoke about the consequences of it getting worse.

He explained that a little ringing is normal for most people, but it can get so severe that it can seriously impact your mental health. Should I need it, I could access therapy through the NHS. This alone scared me enough to look after my ears properly! However, it was fantastic to also hear that, although I couldn't make my Tinnitus better, I could stop it getting worse.

How do you manage it and stop it from getting worse?

Hearing aids help me lower the volume of my Tinnitus, but I understand that may not work for everyone.

I now have noise cancelling, over-ear headphones and discreet ear buds (Flare brand) which I was advised to wear in loud places including the cinema, bars, clubs, concerts, the tube, when cutting the grass, drying my hair etc. I keep these in my wallet, and it's become second nature to use them. I never get episodes of stress or frustration because of bad Tinnitus which I attribute to catching it early and managing it. I feel very lucky.

It's been really eye-opening learning about how to look after my ears, it's not something people necessarily think about until they're older and it's much harder to save or correct.

Tinnitus is a challenging condition, and right now there isn’t a cure, but with the right approach it can be managed. If you are suffering from Tinnitus or think you might be, it’s important to seek help. Consult a healthcare professional, reach out to support groups, and explore different treatment options to find what works best for you. Remember you’re not alone and help is always available.

If you have been impacted by any of the issues raised or want some help or support with Tinnitus, please visit the organisations listed below:

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