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“Tinnitus is the soundtrack to my life”

Two years ago, Jess, a receptionist from Newport, woke up with tinnitus. After initially struggling to manage it, she’s now in control and has started a blog to help others with tinnitus.

“I woke up one day with a high-pitched noise filling my head. I didn’t know where it came from – there was no big moment, no loud bang, not even a big night out the night before. Initially, I wasn’t worried. I’d had ringing ears in the past and then it had just disappeared, so why would this time be any different?

But it was. Two weeks down the line and it had not stopped. My GP sent me to an audiology clinic as I’d also had problems with my hearing, so after some questioning as well as a hearing test, I was diagnosed with hereditary hearing loss from my dad as well as tinnitus.

During our chat, the doctor concluded that my tinnitus was most likely to have been caused by my exposure to loud music over a period of years. I’m a bit of a rock chick and I love going to gigs and listening to loud music. But in my defence, I had never even heard of tinnitus and had certainly never been advised to wear ear protection in loud places, and neither had anyone else I knew.

I had hearing aids fitted and they were set up with a programmed option that plays a ‘white noise’ into my ears to combat the ringing sound of tinnitus. I couldn’t wait to try them. But my excitement soon wore off when I realised you do not get used to wearing hearing aids overnight.

Let’s just say things got bad. I completely changed from the person I had been before, outgoing, sociable, confident and always on the go.

I started suffering with depression, feeling anxious in crowds, and my self-worth took a nosedive. It was the worst I’d ever felt, and I didn’t know how to explain it to my friends and family, let alone employers or random strangers. I stayed home a lot, spending time alone and making up excuses as to why I couldn’t see my friends. I struggled to get a decent job as I had limited myself to what my abilities were, and without confidence I ended up in a cleaning job that I hated. Tinnitus was fighting me on all fronts, making everything I used to do feel impossible.

Life changed for me when I agreed to go on a trip with my friends. It involved driving from Wales to Russia in a little Fiat Panda over the course of eight weeks. I almost didn’t go – but my friends are very persuasive, so reluctantly, I agreed to join them.

This trip flipped everything back around. Although I still had some difficult days and sleepless nights (tinnitus stalked me around the world, the creep), I also remembered what life was all about: having fun with my friends, meeting amazing new people and witnessing breathtaking scenery. As my self-esteem started to grow again, I realised I had let tinnitus take over my life but knew I couldn’t let it any longer.

Two years on, I feel much better about everything. There’s no magic pill, of course – I’ve had to work very hard at pushing myself out of my comfort zone and just go for it. I’m very open with people about my tinnitus and hearing loss now, as their understanding can totally change a situation. I got a new job as a receptionist at a doctor’s surgery and my new employer has given me a lot of support.

After persevering with my hearing aids, they are now like a part of me, much like my contact lenses. I barely notice them. If only I could stop losing them like an irresponsible teenager.

I’ve also begun to write a blog about my life with tinnitus; I’m hoping to provide some hope and humour for those suffering as well as raising awareness for those who don’t understand the effects it has on everyday life. I make sure I take care of my mental health as well as physically protecting my ears from getting worse by using earplugs.

I have recently started to try different methods of handling my tinnitus. I have an app on my phone that plays different sounds, such as rain, that I use before bed to fall asleep to as my tinnitus was previously stopping me from sleeping. I have also started using another app called ‘headspace’ every day to give me time to be calm and hopefully learn to use mindfulness as a coping strategy.

I feel very positive about the future. Since I started blogging, so many people have reached out to me with the same issues that I no longer feel alone and depressed about the condition. I enjoy talking about it and educating people that don’t know what it’s like to suffer with these things. At least I can offer some understanding of what people, like me, go through every day.”

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