The music of my mind
Tinnitus is unseen yet certainly not unheard. It does not discriminate. This is what makes it so fascinating, so challenging, and so difficult to understand, for both us sufferers and for people who cannot come close to experiencing its effects.
I was previously completely unaware of the effects and wider world of tinnitus, until a year ago, when I was suddenly accompanied by a high-pitched whistling. This sound was at first a mild irritation, but its presence and prominence grew over time, and my increasing awareness and anxiety alongside this led me to explore the world of tinnitus and in turn discover the BTA.
Tinnitus in young people
I had no idea about the number of young people who were similarly privately affected by tinnitus, and was amazed at the amount of content available in an attempt to grasp tinnitus’ varying effects. However, this content never provided a personal and intimate experience for people to understand and feel tinnitus, be it my friends, family or myself. What was needed was more than an explanation.
Studying drama at university, I had previously been introduced to the world of audio features (radio plays, audio documentaries and experimental audio pieces of theatre), and their deeply intimate manner of projecting a story and experience right into your ears. After being set the task to create a feature of our own, and doing some research with my fellow creators, Jake and Patience, I found it ironic that there was very little to do with tinnitus in an audio-only medium.
We decided to create a 15-minute feature which allowed the general public a chance to feel tinnitus, directly in their heads. Using Facebook (not our initial plan thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic), we found six people of different ages and backgrounds who were willing to tell us about their own unique experiences with tinnitus, along with sharing their individual sounds, which we in turn attempted to replicate.
Throughout the interview and creative process we discovered that despite each sound being different, and each interviewee’s tinnitus forming at varying ages with varying degrees of severity, there was a shared experience in the coping mechanisms used and the way we adapted to life with this unwanted sound. Hearing and understanding another’s sound, trials and tribulations was a touching experience, but most touching was the fact that despite being sufferers, adapting to this new way of life has been an experience of self-improvement, particularly in terms of confidence in others and coming to terms with personal anxieties surrounding our hearing.
Listen to the documentary here:
Please note: There will be sharp and loud sounds emulating a form of tinnitus at the beginning of the piece and more used throughout, please take caution when listening, and adjust the volume accordingly. The British Tinnitus Association is not responsible for any of the content of this documentary.
Inspired by the words in Henry’s documentary, Molly Porteous created these wonderful illustrations: