Another tough soldier…
Arthur shares his experience of living with tinnitus
During 34 years’ active service in the British Army I was constantly exposed to noise from all types of weapons. Initially, our standard ear protection was ‘Mark 1 Fingers’ inserted in our ears, later progressing to cotton wool balls, then foam ear plugs that often got stuck and had to be removed by the doctor.
Over time I became aware of an almost constant ringing in my ears. However, like all the other ‘tough’ soldiers I never discussed it for fear of being found out, which would rapidly lead to a medical discharge. Moreover, we all feared that this would have an effect on our future employability outside the Army.
My tinnitus was almost constantly present. During the day it was possible to ignore it but in the evenings it was so loud that it prevented me from falling asleep. As a result I always slept with the radio or TV on to drown out the noise.
It was only three years ago that I actually spoke to my GP, who arranged an appointment with an audiologist. They detected only a moderate hearing loss but encouraged me to try hearing aids.
I couldn’t believe the improvement in my hearing. For the next few days I kept thinking that I was being followed because for the first time in years I could hear my own footsteps! I also noticed that I didn’t have to ask people to repeat what they said and others noticed that my voice was not so loud.
Now, I can honestly say that most of the time I do not have tinnitus. I sleep so well that I forget all about it. Sometimes I forget to put my hearing aids in. However, after a day without them, the tinnitus returns. It feels as though when my hearing is reduced my brain is searching for every sound, including the tinnitus, but when my hearing is normal it doesn’t.