Paul – my tinnitus story

Music fan Paul, shares his story this #TinnitusWeek

I discovered music quite early, and my obsession really began when I was about 14 years old. I started buying records fanatically and attended gigs, sometimes two a week, and that passion was set for life. Learning guitar and then later DJ’ing part time were by-products of a lifelong enthusiasm. I still love music just as much, attending many gigs, and still go to Glastonbury every year it’s held. 

I can’t remember for sure when I first realised that I had tinnitus permanently, maybe five or six years ago.  After a gig, a club or a rave, I’d got used to waking up the next morning to a high-pitched tone in my ears, but it would usually go within a day. At some point my hearing would seem to click back to normal, akin to your ears popping like the sensation after swimming when the water drains out, and the clarity of my hearing would return to normal. Many years of experiencing this pattern gave me no reason to think any differently. No one ever talked about it, it was always just what happened after a music event. It’s only with hindsight that you later understand and realise the things to look out for and the danger signs. 

I don’t know if my tinnitus was caused by one individual event, or an accumulation over the years. All I know is that one day, I noticed that the noise interference I was hearing was not returning to normal. Doctor and hospital visits then brought the realisation that never again would I be able to experience silence. It’s only now that I can fully appreciate the wonder of being able to sit in a quiet room, close my eyes, and just hear … nothing … nothing at all. 

The coping mechanisms are to always have something on in the background. A quiet room needs to have the radio on in the background, or TV. I need to have headphones with me everywhere I go in case I am in a place with no sound and then suddenly the continual, relentless hiss comes to the fore, to drown out all other sounds and thoughts. 

I have also been very fortunate, though, to come across a great support group, found through Tinnitus UK, in the Greenwich Tinnitus Support Group with the amazing work and support that Louise and Adam do. The group meetings are so helpful, and being able to talk to others in the same situation is a real comfort. I would advise anyone to seek out their local support group. 

My love of music has not waned however, and I am never without my discreet attenuating earplugs now and am very encouraged to see the work of the Plug’em campaign, to spread the word through prevention and education. 

Find out what else is going on in #TinnitusWeek

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