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“Tinnitus can be isolating”

Profoundly deaf since birth, Professor of forensic biology Graham Williams, 43, has tinnitus, and finds the biggest trigger is background noise.

“I AM profoundly deaf and have been since birth. To manage with this, I rely on lipreading and powerful hearing aids. I also have tinnitus.

My tinnitus takes the form of whirring noises, clicks, whistling and the occasional explosion. Sometimes the sounds can be very jarring and other times it can be rather melodious, which means I am looking for the source of the music.

There are certain things that trigger my tinnitus, with the biggest trigger being excessive background noise and fatigue. If am both tired and with lots of background noise, then I generally need a quiet dark corner somewhere. Long meetings with lots of people really take it out of me.

I have always had tinnitus throughout my life, but as I get older, I do find myself struggling with it more and losing my patience with it a bit. I don’t know if this is because it is getting worse, or if I am just becoming a grumpy old man.

Ultimately, I find the best cure, albeit a temporary one, is a good night’s sleep, but if the tinnitus is excessive, then I do struggle to get off to sleep and this is when I really suffer. I need the sleep to stop it, but it won’t let me sleep. One of the tricks I do when I have tinnitus is to repeat the noise that I hear, either out loud (not ideal when my wife is sleeping next to me) or in my head and then make it louder than the noise I hear and keep it up as long as I can. What I find is that when I stop, the actual tinnitus becomes more bearable as it is quieter in comparison.

One of the best ways for me to deal with tinnitus is to avoid getting it in the first place, but since this avoids social situations where there is background noise, it can be rather isolating and makes me come across rather anti-social. However, my friends and family do realise this and if I just stop talking to them or just leave the room for a bit, they know it is not me being anti-social, it is just me trying to avoid triggering the tinnitus. It doesn’t stop them from teasing me about it though!”

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