What does tinnitus sound and feel like to the one in ten people in the UK who live with it?
When musician and music producer Peter realised how difficult tinnitus was to measure, he re-created the sound of his particular form of tinnitus using his music software to help others to better understand this hidden condition.
“My tinnitus manifests itself as high-pitched tones in both ears. Each ear’s sound is at a very slightly different frequency and the noise is constant.
“What’s hard to put across to others is how it feels in my head and the disruptive effect it has on me. It’s not like an itch or anything that you can forget about after a few minutes; it forces your attention relentlessly.
“If you can imagine the struggle to think clearly whilst hugging a vacuum cleaner, that’s in the right ball park. Then consider coping with this all day every day and trying to sleep with it constantly reasserting itself like an alarm which you can’t switch off or ignore.”
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is defined as the sensation of hearing noises in your ear, ears or head when there is no external source. It manifests itself differently for different people. For example, it can sound like whistling or whooshing, buzzing or rumbling. For some, the sounds come and go, and for others, the sound can be continuous.
Peter’s tinnitus started four years ago. Although tinnitus can be associated with damage to hearing from repeated exposure to excessive noise, Peter doesn’t recognise this as a cause of his tinnitus. As a music industry professional, he has always carefully protected his hearing. In Peter’s case, the problem seems to stem from a period of high stress in his life.
“I am usually fine whilst working, which in my case involves a lot of listening to music, but as soon as I stop, oh boy do I pay the price. The tinnitus rushes in and tries to take me over.
“Avoiding silence and finding distractions such as voices on TV or radio seems to help. Smartphone apps that provide sounds of rainfall, surf, wind or babbling brooks can all help too.”
Signal first met Peter when he took part in our Telford Tinnitus Support Group, where people meet to share their experiences of living with tinnitus amongst people who understand. There are opportunities to exchange coping strategies as well as to learn from expert speakers and try out helpful equipment.
Anyone affected by tinnitus is welcome to come along. Drop-in sessions happen every month in Shrewsbury and Wellington, Telford, and support group meetings are held in both locations quarterly.
Can Signal support you?
If you would like more information about tinnitus and the support that you can access through Signal, please visit our tinnitus web page, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on 01743 358 356 or send a text message (SMS) to 07950 782 819.
Headline photograph: Peter supporting Signal at an awareness event.