“Tinnitus was a bolt out of the blue”

It’s a little known fact that tinnitus can also affect children. To raise awareness the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) is marking Tinnitus Week, which runs from 5-11 February 2018, by looking at how young people are affected by the condition. Isabel Lodge, who is from Worcestershire, is 12 and was diagnosed with tinnitus when she was in year three at school, aged just eight. Here, her mum Jan Lodge, explains how tinnitus has impacted on Isabel’s life and how she has learnt to live with the condition.

Isabel’s story

Isabel’s tinnitus was a bolt of the blue. She had a nasty ear infection and was left with a buzzing sound in her ear that has not gone away since.

We were referred to ENT and Isabel was diagnosed with tinnitus. It was a shock for us all to realise that the condition affected children as we only really associated it with older people and we were told that she was likely to have to deal with it for the rest of her life.

At this point, Isabel was really struggling, particularly in the school environment and we were unsure of the best way to turn to try and help her. She would have to leave the classroom a lot because the general noise along with her tinnitus often became too much to bear and there were times she couldn’t cope with it, particularly if she wasn’t sleeping well, too.

Living with tinnitus

It was only when we saw an audiologist at Birmingham Children’s Hospital that we really started to get the specialist support Isabel needed. Initially, relaxation techniques had a massive impact and Isabel started to deal with her tinnitus more effectively. But when she transitioned into middle school in Y5, things changed and it was not working as well as it had.

Isabel was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate in class as she was straining to hear all the time. She was tired, had headaches and was generally exhausted which meant she was getting behind on her school work as well as missing out on things all her friends were doing. This led to some quite big emotional problems which was a challenge as Isabel really felt upset that she had to live with tinnitus and the impact it was having on her life. The situation wasn’t improving and as a mum, I was really concerned for Isabel’s mental health

We went back to see the audiologist and were given a white noise generator and almost immediately it was like having another child, the change was unbelievable and it has helped cope with her condition so much better. They don’t work for everyone but it was the catalyst Isabel needed to feel better and make a change.

Where is she now? 

Isabel is in Y8 now and thriving. She has developed her own coping strategies and is in control of her tinnitus which means she is doing more and joining in with her friends and their activities which is great. We have also worked with her school to meet Isabel’s needs. She still has difficult days but is now much more equipped to deal with them.

I think it is very hard for children to verbalise and say what tinnitus is like. And it is a really misunderstood condition – it’s not nice for a child to have to keep leaving lessons and getting behind with work or missing out on normal childhood activities so it does really impact on them. As a family, we want to help other children who have this often isolating and debilitating condition so they know that with the right support from those around them things can get better.

Tinnitus Week runs from 5-11 February 2018 aiming to get the nation talking about tinnitus and highlight the stories of those living with it, particularly children and young people. For more information please visit the British Tinnitus Association’s website www.tinnitus.org.uk. You can also follow the hashtag #TinnitusWeek on social media.

To download the new BTA resources designed for parents and teachers to understand more about tinnitus and to support children with the condition visit: www.tinnitus.org.uk/Pages/Category/tinnitus-in-children

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