“What a difference that initial GP encounter can make”

Father and daughter, Tom Dawson (62) and Sinead Coveney (42) from Dover have both had tinnitus for as long they can remember and learnt to live with it as best they can. But it hasn’t been an easy journey for either of them. This has been compounded by a lack of understanding about tinnitus not just from those around them but also from the medical professional who they hope can become more knowledgeable about the devastating impact tinnitus can have.

Sinead, a border force officer, said: “I remember starting to notice my tinnitus, which is in both ears, a loud pitch ringing, as a teenager and it always was irritating but I managed it ok. But by the time I got to about 20 I had as serious bout of depression and anxiety and I noticed my tinnitus became considerably worse during that very low period which certainly did not help the situation. I did receive help for my mental health at that point but my tinnitus was always dismissed so I just thought I had to get on with it and there was nothing anybody could do.

“I came through that time and met my husband and went on to have three children and my tinnitus remained constant but not overwhelming.  However, the last four or five years it has really reared its head again. It was having such an impact on my sleep, mood and general mental health that it got to the point where I just thought I can’t cope with this anymore.

“So I went to see my GP. I was so lucky because I had a really sympathetic doctor who really listened to me and understood how distressing I was finding the condition. It was the first time I’d ever properly felt it was being taken seriously. I was referred on to the hospital and saw a really helpful ENT consultant who was also very supportive and sent me to an audioiologist who talked me through a range of ways to help me manage it. I have found mindfulness and sound technology at night to be really beneficial for me and still use them now.

“From this experience I was really encouraged and pushed my dad, who works in IT, to get help. He gets it worse than me to the point where it is so intrusive that at night he just paces around the house because he can’t sleep.

“But his GP was very dismissive and it took him a while to get referred and when he did his hospital experience was not like mine at all which has left him approximately two years behind me in terms of where I am with my therapy and general management of the condition.

“It just goes to show what a difference that initial GP encounter can make. If people are being told that there is nothing that can be done then they are probably going away and trying to cope with it on their own when there is support out there. It’s not easy and there’s no magic cure but it’s better than being isolated trying to deal with it by yourself.

“Tinnitus is such a silent condition because no one talks about it and there is such little understanding about how devastating it can be, people just don’t take it seriously. My dad and I think it’s a great idea to educate the public and particularly medical professionals about tinnitus because we know what a difference my current GPs approach has made to my life.”

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