British Tinnitus Association
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Non understanding work colleagues

Well I had a bit of a shock this week as one of the team leaders told me that i was becoming difficult to work with because of my lack of enthusiasm towards my job....i was a bit taken aback to say the least but once i explained to her that the problems lie with me having to deal with having tinnitus on a daily basis, she was a bit more sympathetic. However it just goes to show how having this silent condition can be misunderstood by those who are lucky enough, not to be affected. I told them its hard for me to concentrate at times when you've got this noise going on in your head and that it can be distracting and when your tired alot of the time because you're not getting enough sleep, its bound to have some effect on your mood. I even played them "SOUNDS OF TINNITUS" From you tube so she could hear for herself the kind of sound i have and she was shocked and said "thats aweful and can see why its hard to deal with" I think i should be wearing a badge that says "I have tinnitus" so people are aware that i have a reason as to why i might not be firing on all cylinders sometimes....

Does anyone know if theres any guidelines for employers to assist employees with tinnitus or where to get fact sheets that i can put up at work so people can be educated.

Hopefully she will now realise that If i appear to be having an off day, its not because i am less enthusiastic about my job but its because Im having a bad tunnitus day!

Lesley

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This is just my personal way, of dealing with tinnitus at work, I try to get so focused on what ever I am doing, that it stops you thinking about the tinnitus. I don’t like to mention about my tinnitus at work as if you start talking about it, you start thinking about it more, and I just like to try and forget about it, but that can be difficult at times. I have also made a concerted effort to reduce my caffeine intake and it has been hard but I am noticing a reduction in the volume of my tinnitus after a few weeks. I look upon tinnitus as a constant irritating companion always trying to grind you down, so if you can just learn to not think about not letting him win, it can go some way to beating this horrible condition.

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Hi Lesley I think people just don't understand anyone who has Tinnitus and what you have to endure and still get on with life and hold a job down I was lucky as a nurse my colleagues were sympathetic and I had to ask to go home somedays but eventually I had to give work up Tinnitus just takes over your life you could always ask where you work who to speak to a dear friend of mine is a maternity nurse and on a training day they had to demonstrate how to a fire extinguisher which made a loud noise and she asked them to stop because of her Tinnitus and they did hope things get better at work. David Xx

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Hi David,

I am a nurse too and work in theatres and youd think my fellow colleagues would be a bit more understanding however that doesnt seem to be the case as most of them dont have a clue about tinnitus and its effects. Guess i will have to start educating them.

Most of the time i can keep myself distracted but if Im tired its more difficult. Its also hard because your stuck in one place all the time and only have on e area to focus on. Think i might be better off in another department but can only do this if i go through occupational health but as my last tinnitus scoring was low, Im not so sure they will do anything about it.

Oh well will have to try to all outward appearances to be more positive. Thanks for your advice though.

Lesley

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Hi Lesley, so sorry to hear that you have had to hear those words. From being here with you on this forum over the past couple of years, I would consider you to be a kind and caring person. You have certainly supported and advised me during my difficult times.

Tinnitus awareness is non-existent in the general public - I too was guilty of it during my pre-tinnitus days, when I had absolutely no idea how horrible and life-changing it can be. Perhaps we sufferers don't want to talk about it, as we have to try to push it to the back of our consciousness in order to beat the beast?!

I truly hope that your "team leader" now understands and YOUR needs can be accommodated within your team of work colleagues. Unfortunately, tinnitus is a disability in that it affects our day to day lives, and provision and consideration should be made for this in anyone's working environment.

Love and best wishes, Angela xx

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Hi Angela,

Thank you for your kind words and likewise your help and advise has always helped me to get my head around dealing with tinnitus. My clinical manager had a chat with me too about my outwardly lack of enthusiasm for my job and that even though im tired sometimes i need to have a bit more oomph and be more pro active. She did ask if there was anything she could do to help support me but i have no idea what can be done.

It seems that your not allowed to have an "off day" anymore and to be honest it makes me feel like leaving because its going to make me feel as if im under scrutiny all the time and i can do without that kind of thing.

I am considering emailing Nic to see if she can provide any advice for me to pass onto my manager. They sent me some leaflets but its not quite what i was looking for. So dont know what to do now.

Hope you are ok and werent affected by the storms. We didnt have it too bad in portsmouth though looks like we're in for another one this saturday but its not as severe.

Take care, love n best wishes

lesley x

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Hi Lesley, so sorry to read that work is not as pleasant as it should be for you. Tinnitus can be so very debilitating but unfortunately no-one else can possibly understand ...... to be fair, before I got it I could never have possibly imagined what it was like. Fortunately, I am retired so I am able to manage my lifestyle to quieten my T but I do know that if a stressful situation cannot be avoided e.g. motorway driving at busy times, then sure enough my tinnitus makes itself known.

I too would email or speak to Nic at the BTA to ask for her advice if I needed help in a similar situation. You do such a valuable and important job so I hope that you are treated with respect and not just as a number in the NHS.

The storm didn't cause too much damage in Shropshire, though a few trees were blown down, fortunately with no harm to anyone or any buildings. Tuesday was a magical day with the lovely pink-orange atmosphere and sun. Today, it is very dark and raining down in stair rods, with much the same being forecast for the weekend. We all need to keep our ears warm don't we?

I do hope you are feeling ok Lesley; have a nice weekend of lovely distractions, whatever you do. Love and best, as always, Angela xx

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Hi Angela, as a HR Manager who has had T for 7 years I can relate to how it feels for you in work. I work in a very quiet office, so always hear the noise, but I'm lucky enough that I've started habituating to it, otherwise I think I'd go crazy.

In the early days it was a nightmare in such an environment so I can sympathise with you. Strangely I too have used YouTube to give my colleagues an idea what living with T is like, and they're shocked!

In terms of employment, there does need to be more education, and there is within industries that could damage the hearing (Manufacturing/ Construction) but not in others, and they don't need to. However, depending on the severity of T it could fall under as being a Disability, and as Angela has suggested, reasonable adjustments need to be made.

Good luck in getting that elusive sleep - not sure if it would help but I listen to mine at night and ensure it becomes a "tune", rather than an enemy constantly at the door.....

Paul....

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Hi Paul,

Thanks for your reply and info. I would like to know more about what managers can do to help support employees with tinnitus as my clinical manager had "A CHAT" with me the other day about my performance. Saying that as Im a senior nurse ( i work in the operating department in an nhs hospital) that i need to show more enthusiasm for my job but i explained or tried to explain, that having tinnitus makes me more tired and if its really loud, it just distracts me and my concentration level is affected. But she in one sentance said we dont want to lose you but you need to try and be pro active and if there was anything she could do to support me then i was to tell her. However Im not sure if there is anything she can do towards this and if you've got any advice from an HR point of view then Id be grateful.

For most of the time I can and do manage my tinnitus very well but do as with many of us, have off days/periods where its not so managable and i do everything i can to ensure i sleep well enough to get by so i can do my job adequately.

I wonder if contacting the BTA and asking them to email my boss would help? What do you think?

Lesley

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Hi Lesley

It sounds as if the clinical manager maybe getting somewhat frustrated with you and that they're not being as sympathetic as you once thought, especially when you say they were amazed when you played the T sound to them. Trying to play devil's advocate, he/she is perhaps not seeing the performance that they've come to expect from you. Could they also argue that a performance drop from you could result in a decline in patients' health. The ironic part about this is that "this chat" may likely put more stress on you , and we all know what that does to our T!

If they are highly trained then there is a possibility that they have made a "file note" - an electronic or paper copy detailing what they said to you/ when/ time etc that they could use in a formal setting if they feel your performance is waining. Now that is not to worry you, its just something I ask my Management Team to do, so it may apply here.

In your case, they've opened the door to a conversation and have mentioned what they can do to support you. That's great and here's your chance to throw everything at them. Ask the clinical manager if you can have a conversation - this is all informal at present - and in there tell them that on a whole you're ok but at times it gets you down etc etc.

I'm afraid I can't give speciifc help with support as I don't know your job/ workplace but could be

Working different times when your T doesn't bother you

Allow you to wear a noise generator to cancel out you T when it bothers you

Not put you in stressful situations (although you're a senior nurse in an Operating Theatre!)

Can the clinic play background music

I'd also go to a GP to get some medical advice as Employers want to know what you are doing to help the situation. Giving them BTA leaflets could help but I'd ask them to go to a ENT consultant/ Audioloist which I would have thought would be easier in your manager's profession.

Ultimately they should be steered by what you need, so start thinking of your workplace and what would be changed to help your situation before the meeting.

Good luck and come back to me if you need more, perhaps even following the informal conversation.

Best

Paul

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Hi Paul,

Thanks for the information and will certainly look into it. My job is quite demanding at times and we work in small teams in one particular operating theatre on any given day. Part of my role involves scrubbing for operations which involves passing instruments to the surgeon and that kind of thing and alot of the time when Im doing this my brain ignores the tinnitus until after the operation has finished then it tends to resurface at a louder pitch than before. I dont feel that my problems affect my patient care as Im always conscientious about that but if my own health is suffering then its hard to give 100%. My manager offerred to refer me to occupational health for a review so maybe that is the way forward if i find Im still under performing.. I have to admit that up until i had my IPR, i felt more happier in my role and was managing my tinnitus and thought i was doing ok however my team leader said at the end of the review that i needed to show more enthusiam which came as a bit of a shock as i was putting in more effort to be pro active even if i was having a difficult Tinnitus day so hearing that unsettled me.

But this has made me feel anxious about my job and has made me wonder how people are perseeving me so maybe i need to have a meeting with those it concerns and see if a solution can be found.

Maybe the job isnt distracting enough but theres not many others roles within our department that i could transfer too.

I may also seek advice from my union and make an appointment with my GP to see if i need to go on medication to help with sleeping as i know a lot of T sufferers take mild anti depressants for this. Its not that i dont sleep as i do but most nights only get 5 to 6 hours and think the quality of it is not as good as it used to be especially since my mother passed away two years ago.

I do wear a hearing aide with built in maskers which i wear every day, though i only have mild hearing loss so only use it as a masker. It does work to a certain extent but only when the whistling is low.

Sorry to have gone on so much but as a manager and having T yourself, you seem to have a good understanding of what Im going through at the moment and just talking about stuff is making me feel a bit better.

Will let you know how it goes

lesley

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Hi. I agree. I have a colleague which cerebral palsy who is in a wheelchair and at times people " fall over " to help her which I think she finds annoying as she is fiercely independent. I Darenth even take a lunch break for fear of looking as if I can't stand the heat in the kitchen 😢

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Some of its my issues - fear of appearing weak I guess , accepting I'm not superwoman any more and knowing work is my drug of choice to cope with it. My bosses did change the hours to encourage me to apply / accommodate me - in reality it's a bit tricky to stick to. But it is important for us to speak up - found out my CEO has tinnitus and was telling her about BTA ! Have an ok day all ☺

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