“My tinnitus makes me feel like the worst mum in the world”

Rebecca has had tinnitus for 23 years. As part of our Spring Appeal, she writes about the debilitating impact tinnitus has on her life and how things would be different if we could find a cure.

“My tinnitus makes me feel like the worst mum in the world”

In 2000, I developed a serious infection in my inner ear which damaged all the little hairs of my cochlea. I was just eight years old at the time. The infection, that had started off so small, destroyed my balance and decimated my hearing in my right ear. It also gave me tinnitus.

I can’t remember a day since then that I haven’t heard it. My tinnitus is a noise like tv static, but someone’s turned the volume up to 60. And it never goes away.

“I dread events like my little boy’s birthday party” 

I’m 31 now and I have two beautiful children with my husband, Dave, but, if I’m honest, my tinnitus makes relationships incredibly hard. I dread events like my little boy’s birthday party because I can’t bear the shame of having to ask people to repeat themselves over and over again. I’m constantly worried that people will think I’m rude and not listening to them but the truth is I can’t hear them over my tinnitus.

Having tinnitus has made life exhausting. It’s not just that I can’t hear and that I have to try and read lips or that I’m embarrassed about what other people must think of me but that after hours of straining to listen to everyone, of the social anxiety, I get horrible headaches that make my tinnitus even worse. Even louder. It’s a vicious loop.

“My tinnitus starts screaming in my ear and I feel as though I’m trapped inside a bubble of noise”

Driving is where my tinnitus is at its worst. I was involved in a car crash last year while on my way to work. One of my tyres blew out on the motorway and my car flipped four times. I’m thankful every time I do that route now that it was the one day that week that I wasn’t taking my little girl, Emily, to nursery.

Luckily, no one was hurt but driving on that road is a horrific experience for me now. I get incredibly scared when I feel uneven road beneath me. Then, because I’m getting stressed, my tinnitus starts screaming in my ear and I feel as though I’m trapped inside a bubble of noise that’s pressing in on me. My heart starts racing. I’m terrified because it’s so loud. It’s the only thing I can hear.

“I feel like the worst mum in the world.”

Some days my tinnitus is so bad that I can’t bear to face people. I pop the kids in front of Netflix and just curl up on the sofa and hide. I feel like the worst mum in the world.

My tinnitus affects me at work too. It’s hard to organise your thoughts between the constant noise in your head.

I work as a biomedical scientist at my local hospital, and I have to be very thorough. If my tinnitus is making it hard to concentrate, I’m more likely to make a mistake and that can throw off my work for the whole day. The worry that this creates, that I’m falling behind and letting patients down, can start to spiral and my tinnitus will get louder and louder. I don’t need to tell you how hard that is.

“Instantly my heart started to race. I was so scared that I was hearing new tinnitus sound.”

Recently, one of the machines in the lab started making a new noise. It was a high-pitched beep that I’d never heard before and we couldn’t turn it off.

Instantly my heart started to race. I was so scared that I was hearing a new tinnitus sound. I kept asking my colleagues over and over ‘Can you hear that?’ because I was desperate to make sure it wasn’t just a noise in my head.

Not many people will understand what that’s like.

A cure for tinnitus

A good day with tinnitus is when I don’t notice it as much. I’m chatty and bubbly. I sing silly songs or do little dances. I wish every day was like that, like I could be my true self.

After three years, I’m now finally on the waiting list for a bonebridge surgery. This little ear implant will send sounds, through vibrations in my skull, from my bad ear to my good ear. And it should help with my tinnitus too!

Right now, that’s the best science can do for me. I’ve found other ways to cope; at night I listen to a sound machine app on my phone that plays through a soft band I can wear around my head and I have in-ear hearing aids right now. But that’s about as good as it gets for me. Maybe for you too.

That’s why I’m taking part in this appeal. A donation to Tinnitus UK is a gift of hope for people like me. With your support we could fund the next breakthrough in tinnitus research that could find new and better treatment options for even more people.

A cure for tinnitus would change lives. By donating to our Spring Appeal, you could help make a brighter future possible.