Coping with Tinnitus in the workplace

Hi everyone, I'm new to forum and this is my first post :) Into my 2nd month of T and trying everything and anything to try to get used to this constant racket in ma lugs and to get some decent Zzzzzz. I've had chronic ear pain for several months but the tinnitus/hyperacusis only came on after a customer subjected me to an unexpected loud noise on a call. ENT checked over ears and thankfully no hearing loss, he thinks the tinnitus/distorted hearing may have been triggered by a temporary threshold shift caused by the noise exposure and the chronic ear pain/muffled ears is due to TMJ dysfunction for which I'm now getting treatment. To top it all off I've also had issues with my balance and currently getting rehab for that. Finding it really difficult to adjust, but trying desperately to keep positive and going through a trial and error process to habituate. I'm currently off work but hoping to go back next month, very unsure of how I'm going to cope as I work in a busy call centre, but I'll just have to cross that bridge when I come to it. Can I ask how everyone copes in their working environment and if anyone out there works in a similar environment to myself, especially if you work on the phones, if you have any advice on coping? Thanks for taking the time to read this :)

Julie

25 Replies

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  • Welcome to the BTA forum Julie.

    You might find Buccastem helpful for balance or Proclorperazine or Betahistine along with balance physio.

    You might be able get a headset that the speaker sits infrount of the ear and not over the ear to help ear conditions ...lots of love glynis

  • Hi there Glynis, thanks for info! J :)

  • Hello Julie

    I work in an open plan office and use headphones on my telephone for conference calls etc.

    Over the past month I have developed loud tinnitus and have sensitivity to certain sounds so I too, have been somewhat cautious when subjecting my ears to phone calls & working in a busy office working environment.

    When using the phone, I have tried to keep the volume turned down as much as possible but still being able to hear the other end. It is difficult and can be a bit "trial and error" I'm afraid. Its a case of working out whats best for you.

    I also find that being in different parts of the building can be challenging too. The staff canteen is hard due to so much variance in noise. Also the loos(!) particularly with hand dryers. Its a case of working out whats best for you. If you find the surrounding noise at your desk too much, maybe you could ask to be moved to a more quieter area to help you adjust.

    Try not to get too stressed & stay calm. As others will vouch on here it is important not to become frightened of sounds otherwise it can become a phobia. It's not easy. I'm managing my environment as best as I can on a day to day basis but you're not alone.

    Good luck.

    Andy

  • Thanks Andy, I hope things improve for you, open plan office is challenging environment for sure, didn't even think about the hand dryers! Keeping calm and not getting stressed is my biggest hurdle, which I am working on as quick to realise it's a vicious circle with T. Have been getting myself so worked up thinking how I'm going to cope when I go back but I've pushed for an occupational assessment before I return and just trying to put those negative thoughts to the back of my mind as I focus on getting my health back on track. I've been told to stop plugging my ears and gradually introduce myself into louder environments as I've been getting so anxious about how I'm going to cope that I've been avoiding things completely so I'm trying hard to overcome this before it comes more of a problem. You mentioned volume when using headset, but do you have any special type of headset?

    J :)

  • I used to plug my ears a lot, journeys in the car and generally around the house but I no longer do that. However, if I attend the theatre I'll always use earplugs. I'm finding the loud tinnitus is headache causing too

  • It's a bit like giving up a security blanket, but I've found since I've stopped it's getting a wee bit easier to focus on other things and I'm enjoying having some low level music in the background, plugging makes T more dominant for me but with my ears being so sensitive I got anxious something would set it into overdrive. I think also as this was triggered by an unexpected noise it's hard to shake the fear, especially when I do go back to taking calls. When my T spikes it worsens my headaches too, I've had a constant one for several months now along with earache & face-ache due to TMJ dysfunction. I've recently started taking turmeric supplements as they are a natural anti-inflammatory and pain killer and they do seem to be taking the edge of things.

  • Hi Julie

    I have a headset which has a microphone and one ear piece which I wear over my right ear which seems to be less affected by tinnitus. Volume is controlled by the telephone set I'm connected to but most headsets do have a volume controller on them. As Glynis suggested, perhaps moving the ear piece so its not actually over your ear fully may help. Most headsets are adjustable in some way so see what you can do with yours.

    I know what exactly what you mean about how hard it is to keep calm and relaxed. I am "up and down" like a yo-yo coming to terms with what is going on but I am slowly working out how to operate in the environments I now find myself in. I do find keeping busy and getting outside walking helps to keep adrenaline levels down and mask with noise / sensitivity. It is a vicious circle but, with time, I'm sure we'll break it ;-)

    Andy

  • Yes we will ;) I'm very passionate about the great outdoors and do find walking daily helps immensely, luckily I have the coast and woodlands right on my doorstep, I just need to get my balance side of things sorted so I can get back up the mountains of a weekend!

    Funnily enough it's my left ear that T dominates too, it comes and goes in the right ear but never reaches the volume of the left so I hardly notice the right one!

    Defo sounds like it's going to be trial and error with the headsets too, will see what the occupational assessors suggest, thanks for letting me know your set up. There may be an issue with wearing at front of ear is I have dysfunction in the jaw joint which sits right there at the front of ear and is the culprit for my chronic pain. Seriously feel like I'm falling to bits, gotta laugh or I'd be crying, and that's not a place I want to be...could be worse, at least I'm still alive and kicking :D

    J

  • You are right Slipware, tinnitus can cause headaches. Good to hear that you are not wearing earplugs as often as they can do more harm than good when worn too regularly, by making the auditory system hypersensitive to sound.

  • Julie,

    A really good physio for balance is to stand on a pillow.

    If you can do it ok then try on one leg and then the other.

    Holding someones hands try it with your eyes clossed....

    I have Menieres and the pillow exercise helped and when had my knee ops too....lots of love glynis

  • I also have balance issues. Not dizzy. Just a feeling of leaning sideways. It's worse when my ear feels full, like today.

  • I hope it eases off for you, are you getting any treatment for balance? I feel like I'm being pulled to the side when I walk for any length of time, like I'm drunk. I'm used to long distance hiking/hill climbing so it's very frustrating.

  • I know exactly what you mean. No, no treatment. I'm left to just get on with it.

  • That's not good, have they told you whats causing it? My vestibular audiologist thinks its BPPV that's causing mine and has given me treatment but says I may feel worse before I feel better.

  • I had a mini stroke. It's affected the side of my head.

  • Sorry to hear that! Will you recover from it?

  • I have as much as I'm going to. Tinnitus is just one nasty legacy from it.

  • Hiya Julie, sounds like you've been through the mill & still are......

    Unable to answer your question but wish you well on crossing that bridge.

  • Hello there and thank you :D

  • Hi Julie,

    I work in a call centre as well and am currently undergoing a neverending debate with myself as to whether I should start wearing the hearing aids I've been given by the NHS audiologist. I've managed to get myself moved to a quieter bit of the office at work, but as & when the noise levels do increase I find myself getting really stressed and panicky, which obviously then makes the T worse - it leads to one of the vicious circles we're all so familiar with. I've spoken to Access to Work previously and they said that they would be able to offer assistance if I did start wearing HA's, presumably via these Roger FM pens or something, but I don't want to wear HA's unless it's absolutely necessary .The audiologists I've spoken to have given the impression that this isn't the case as yet, so I'm hoping it might be feasible for me to habituate to the T without the HA's, even with my slight hearing impairment. Last week this looked promising - I'd had a few days where the T hadn't bothered me too much and I felt a bit more in control, but then this week it's been a frickin' nightmare - constant and LOUD!!

    It's a shame there's no private message function on this forum, otherwise I'd say keep in touch.

  • Hi there :)

    Sorry to hear things have crept back up on you after feeling more in control, how long have you been dealing with T in that environment?

    I've no permanent hearing loss although it does get distorted and muffled. Early days for me and kinda feel like I've just been left to get on with it. On 12wk + waiting list for appointment with nhs audiology (still waiting) went via bupa to get initial ENT check as have chronic ear pain too, they were very thorough but told me quite bluntly there's no cure for T but in time I will get used to it: cue the tears! Here was me rather naively thinking I was going to walk out of the hospital to the sound of silence.

    I've initial occupational assessment scheduled for next Wednesday, I'm still off work at the moment but hope to be back in a few weeks time.

    Are you taking constant calls and if so how do you find you cope?

    BTW there is a message button on profile page :) J

  • I’m on the phones, taking inbound calls all day every day. The calls can be quite lengthy, so it's usually 15-20 calls a day. I've been in this job for just over a year and I suspect this is the reason why my T got worse - the office I was in previously was really noisy and the phones had a tendency to be quite quiet, so I spent 3/4 months really straining to hear clients. I don't think my employer had given any consideration to noise control measures and I wasn't alone in struggling to hear people on the phone, but I think this is what's caused my T to deteriorate. I managed to get myself moved to a quieter office and work have supplied an amplifier (Plantronics M22) for the phone to mitigate the problem of quiet calls, but it’s still very difficult. I’m coming to the conclusion that I need to find a job where my primary function is something other than listening.

  • Have you had an occupational health assessment through work?

  • No. It has been mentioned in the past, but I think I was conflating it with the assessment by the Access to Work people. I think I'll raise it with my manager - her partner has T so she is sympathetic to my plight.

  • I think you should to see what kind of support they can offer. I'll keep you posted on how mine goes, was meant to be on wed but my manager put me through for wrong thing. I won't be even thinking about returning to work until this has been actioned. There is such a lack of knowledge and awareness around tinnitus surprisingly in the medical profession too. There definitely needs to be more awareness within the work place to assist colleagues who have this condition.

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