Jo’s story | British Tinnitus Association
Music executive Jo shares his experience of living with tinnitus
I’ve had constantly ringing, very high-pitched tinnitus in my left ear since around May 2020. I’ve had little episodes of it over the years, but we’re talking about 10-15 seconds, which are forgotten about almost as soon as they start.
I was very concerned
ENT specialists have concluded that there’s probably age-related hearing loss in that ear (although I’m only 46). I work in artist management in the music industry so my hearing is rather important, to say the least. Back in May 2020, the live music business was imploding due to the lockdown, and like everyone working in the arts, I was very concerned about the future. With two young mouths to feed and bills to pay, stress became a real issue, which is why I think my tinnitus has to be connected in some way with that stress. To add to that, I also have a (non-tinnitus) issue with my other ear that remains unresolved.
Ways of trying to mitigate it
There are times throughout the day when I sort of forget about it. Often that coincides with outside noise, or my attention being diverted in another way. But there are also times of the day when it’s very prevalent such as last thing at night when I’m reading in bed or trying to fall asleep, so I’ve had to find ways of trying to mitigate it.
At night, I tend to fall asleep listening to a podcast or whatever at a very low volume through an ear bud. I set a timer for 25 minutes, which is usually enough for me to fall asleep to, and the ear bud also drops out. It doesn’t tend to stop me sleeping once I’m asleep, but it can very much delay me from falling asleep.
It’s really hard
When I think about my tinnitus, and think how loud it is, it does make it louder. So, rather than do that and then end up talking to myself and looking a bit odd, I try to distract my brain from the tinnitus and try not to think about it too much. It’s really hard, especially if you’re not used to doing it, and it requires a lot of brainpower or concentration.
Try not to fight it
Another thing I try and do is to not to fight it, even to accept it. This ringing is not going away. It really does help so much if I don’t work myself up about it: subconsciously, the tinnitus becomes less prominent. All this requires some kind of discipline that I’m not used to having, so I’m still learning on that one!
Playing sports and doing exercise is great because when your body is moving, what you’re hearing is different. And I’m not focused on the ringing. It’s been a great relief to me.
Brain trains itself not to notice
I found the medical approach has been at times very helpful and at times deeply frustrating. With tinnitus, which is all consuming, you would love for someone to say, “This is what you do”. The person I saw, I have huge respect for. He was very patient and very honest with me about the fact that there isn’t a cure, but that how in many cases, the brain trains itself not to notice the sound, and that it may go away, but that it could take months or years. I’ve also had to understand that tinnitus is a symptom of something else, not a disease.
There’s only so much I can say to my wife and two kids about this constant noise. And they can’t help me necessarily. So that’s been difficult because I haven’t really been able to vent to anyone, especially at first whilst we were in lockdown. They’ve been really sympathetic at times, of course, but I don’t expect them to understand what I’m going through because unless you have it yourself, it’s very difficult, I think, to empathise.
Sometimes I worry about the future because I consider myself still ‘youthful’ at 46 and wasn’t expecting my hearing to cause issues at this stage in my life. Rather worryingly, I am told that the ringing may never go away – which is also something hard to accept!
People can be desperate
While I’m open to trying anything, I like to think I wouldn’t fall for one of the (very convincing) YouTube videos or internet adverts about new tinnitus cures, but I can understand that people can be desperate enough to try them. At one point the ENT specialist did put me on a no caffeine, low salt diet but I didn’t notice a dramatic change.
Help each other out
I wish I’d discovered the BTA a bit sooner. I always knew that tinnitus was quite prolific with many sufferers, but I used to wrongly assume that people suffer – excuse the pun – in silence. Having had this for nearly two years now, the time for suffering in silence is over.
I want to be able to talk to people and say, “You know what, I’ve got the same and isn’t it tough? Let’s see if we can help each other out; here’s some things that have helped me.”
I think knowing there’s a network of supportive people out there can be a source of great comfort. The BTA webinars and pages about potential treatments and cures are so helpful, especially with the clear and sensible traffic light system. I just wish there were a few more greens on there – maybe in time!
Tackling tinnitus by yourself can be daunting and can make you feel isolated and alone. The British Tinnitus Association can offer support through our freephone helpline, email, SMS/text and web chat services. Our tinnitus support team has many years of experience supporting people with tinnitus and all our support services are free.
You can access the British Tinnitus Association’s support services via:
Freephone helpline: 0800 018 0527
Web chat: www.tinnitus.org.uk
Email: [email protected]
Text/SMS: 07537 416841