As a young child, J suffered with intermittent glue ear and used to say things which, looking back, seem to indicate tinnitus has been something he's experienced for a long time. For instance, when in the car, he often asked if there was a motorbike behind the car when there wasn't, he'd say at night that he could hear bubbles popping and he'd often not notice he was being talked to. His hearing was tested numerous times but it always came back as being 'normal'. Recently he asked us why the toilet was flushing (it wasn't) when we were sitting reading in silence - it was astonishing to realise (yet again) just how loud the noise/sound J hears as tinnitus can sometimes be!
Once diagnosed, we were surprised to learn the range of sounds that can be 'heard' when someone has tinnitus. J, once told he was not alone and that his problem had a name, was then able to express more fully the severity of his tinnitus. He explained that at quiet times it could be overwhelming, that he could ignore it more easily if he chatted to himself and it wasn't always the same sound or volume.
Many times, J has said "yes" or "what" when noone's said anything. Now we know it's likely to be his tinnitus that's making him think someone's talking to him. He also likes to have a small amount of background (ambient) sound as the noise in his head is overwhelming when it's completely silent. He's explained that trying to concentrate on what's being said, or a task, when the tinnitus volume is high is very challenging (and tiring) for him.
Regarding the varying sounds and volume levels of J's tinnitus, we have had a few events recently that have allowed us some insight into what he has to handle. For instance, whilst out on a visit to a shop one weekend before Christmas, there were some Bose noise cancelling headphones in the electrical department that were available to try. B has been 'angling' for Bose equipment for YEARS so was quick to give them a go... as soon as he tried them, he said to me "you must have a go, they're amazing". So, I put a pair on and was suitably impressed at the reduction in background noise of the department store - in fact, it was barely audible - and this was just with the headphones NOT playing any music. We were both astonished and applauding the 'amazing' non-sound and J had a go... well, his reaction could not have been stronger. He grasped his ears, blanched and yanked off the headphones - it was as if he'd been burnt - his reaction was extreme and instant. He yelled "I DO NOT LIKE THOSE" as he ripped the 'phones off. Noise cancelling just allowed him to hear ONLY the sounds in his head - his tinnitus - and it was overwhelming for him.
|J wearing bone conduction headphones|
|Bone conduction headphones|
Some of the solutions discussed during treatment in London had been white noise machines, special pillow speakers and ear defenders - all on offer here for 2014 Tinnitus Awareness Week. J already has ear defenders and likes to have music playing in the background when his tinnitus is 'filling my head' as then he can concentrate on that instead.
As J doesn't have hearing loss, finding information and support when we first started looking was quite a challenge. Also, his tinnitus is not due to listening to loud music... however, it's no less irritating for him at times but he does deal with it in a matter of fact way (he likes facts) and did some drawings about it a while back that seemed to help him.
J's thoughts on tinnitus are that it is "part of me, varies quite a bit and is sometimes really annoying" but he also says "now I know about it, I can think of other things and it helps me to cope". He recently told his Speech and Language Therapist that it's like "an untuned radio - interference" and when it's really loud, that he can't block it out. Stressful situations worsen his tinnitus and this is something we've noticed can be improved by using the techniques from his therapeutic treatment.
Being aware of tinnitus and accepting it DOES exist has allowed J to discuss, learn about and understand methods that work for him in controlling the impact tinnitus has on his life.
|J's tinnitus level today|
Articles and organisations
There is a detailed description of the type of therapeutic counselling J undertook on pages 26 to 29 in this issue of Audacity (professional audiology publication) and it also contains another article on Tinnitus in Children on pages 30 and 31.
The British Tinnitus Association has a useful website here and we found these pages useful - About Tinnitus and Tinnitus in Childhood