To beat tinnitus, accept it

Sash shares his experience of living with tinnitus and hyperacusis.

My tinnitus journey started in September 2018 following a manual cleaning of ear wax, though I believe tinnitus was inevitable due to exposure to loud music over the years – the ear wax cleaning was just a trigger.  

I thought nothing of it  

My tinnitus started fairly low, so I thought nothing of it and really continued life as normal. I was DJing, going to nightclubs and using headphones, although I was a little more cautious. Gradually each loud event would make my tinnitus worse, even though I went to events only three or four times a year. 

In July 2019, I started experiencing hyperacusis following a house alarm. Initially I was really annoyed at myself, but it couldn’t have been avoided. I have a number of physical symptoms with hyperacusis and it sometimes accentuates the tinnitus. 

I can hear it everywhere 

Currently, my tinnitus is so loud – it feels around 90 decibels. I can hear it everywhere including the shower. My hyperacusis has improved but all sounds are louder.  I still have symptoms like sensitivity, ear flutter and ear burning. Apart from very loud noises, I have noticed my hyperacusis and tinnitus get a lot worse due to wind speed, when I experience intense migraines, fatigue and nausea the next day.  

Unfortunately, due to tinnitus I have had to give up the activities I love like going to football matches, nightclubs, music festivals, DJing and using headphones. That has been the hardest part – it has curtailed my social life significantly.  Even a once-a-year trip to an outdoor music festival worsened my tinnitus. Taking flights is hazardous due to changes in air pressure. 

I am trying very hard not to focus on sound 

I used to wear earplugs when shopping or driving but I hardly wear them now, which I think has helped as I am not so anxious about loud sounds. I am trying very hard not to focus on sound. Anxiety exacerbates my perception of tinnitus. 

When I am busy, I do not hear my tinnitus even though it is so loud and noticeable. I do hear it in bed very loudly but luckily most times I am able to nod off easily. I find some form of pink noise doesn’t necessarily mask it, but it helps me sleep better.  

I am starting to meditate 

I am starting to meditate – it’s still early days but I can see why for some people it could help to distract the mind from the sound of tinnitus. 

To beat tinnitus, accept it and try not to think about it – I know, more easily said than done! Keep busy and distracted. There will be ups and down: please do not blame yourself for spikes which will inevitably happen from time to time. 

It also helps to talk to people about tinnitus. I have a very good Audiologist and is just nice to speak to someone who understands the condition, even though there is no cure.  I am also about to start Tinnitus Retraining Therapy soon. 

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