My tinnitus experience
Last updated on 01 July 2011
Dr Roland Schaette has a very personal reason for looking for a cure for tinnitus - he has the condition himself. Here he tells his story:
"My tinnitus started in 1997. In scientific terms, I’d call the event that caused it a "self-inflicted acoustic trauma" - like millions of other young people, I had enjoyed a whole weekend of excessively loud music at the Love Parade in Berlin, and it turned out that I had developed tinnitus as a permanent “souvenir”. The first time I really noticed the tinnitus was a few days later, when I visited my parents in the countryside and took the dog out for a walk. The beeping sound that I heard surely did not come from the corn fields… I then went to see an ENT specialist and got treated with infusions, but they did not help at all. In addition to the tinnitus, I also developed a bit of hyperacusis.
Over the following months, I could hear my tinnitus whenever it got quiet. Back then, I did not know anything about tinnitus or tinnitus treatment, but somehow I managed to find a self-counselling strategy that made it possible to accept the tinnitus as the new sound of silence, even though I was worried that the tinnitus could get worse. After about half a year of constant tinnitus experience, my tinnitus suddenly got a lot better during a quite busy period, possibly because I did not get to listen to it for more than two weeks and almost forgot about it during the time. Now I’ve got intermittent tinnitus with quiet periods in between. The phantom sound “visits” me regularly, but usually I only realize that I’ve been hearing my tinnitus again after it’s been there for several minutes already.
The peculiar thing about my tinnitus case was that my audiogram did not show any signs of cochlear damage, and even today, 14 years later, I’ve got completely normal hearing and can still hear the very highest frequencies. This seemed to be at odds with all the theories about a relation between cochlear damage and tinnitus. However, standard hearing test do not give a complete picture of the status of the cochlea, and we now managed to demonstrate signs of “hidden hearing loss” in patients with tinnitus and a normal audiogram, which has also helped me understand my own tinnitus better.
I consider myself lucky, as my tinnitus seems to be quite well-behaved, but the period when I was experiencing constant tinnitus gave me a glimpse into how problematic tinnitus can be. The remaining ringing in my ears always reminds me why we pursue research towards a cure."