The onset of tinnitus can be a daunting experience when it is loud and intrusive. Understandably, a strange new sound that hasn’t been heard before can be alarming and leave a person at a loss of what to do. The first port of call is usually the family doctor. The Internet being readily available many people can’t resist searching Google on health issues before seeing their GP, because by nature most human beings are curious and want to know more. Some of the information out there about tinnitus is not good and unfortunately a lot of it is bad and can instil negative thinking. It seems not much has changed over the years that I have had tinnitus and the way that some people view it, even by some healthcare professionals that should know better and hope this improves.
One afternoon twenty two years ago I was listening to music through my headphones and removed them. At that moment I knew something had been added that previously wasn’t there and thought, the high pitched ringing was coming from somewhere in my home and began searching each room to locate its source but found nothing. This puzzled me but as I listened more intensely I realized the sound was actually coming from my head and ears.
I had a sinking feeling the sound was known as tinnitus. I had heard of the condition but never experienced it nor did I want to believe that I had it. Everywhere I went it followed me and to be honest the experience was quite frightening. Unfortunately the truth was confirmed by my pharmacist, who I had gone to for help and to buy some eardrops hoping it would reduce the ringing. The forlorn look on his face as I began explaining my symptoms, I took to mean prepare for bad news. It’s tinnitus he said and as his gaze lowered to the floor, I heard those familiar words that many know so well. There is no cure. I stood there trying my best to hold it together and felt completely numb hearing those words.
Many of you will understand when I say I hadn’t slept that night, for I was filled with anxiety and fear. Thoughts about my future overwhelmed me and knew I couldn’t live with this unwelcome intrusion in my life. The hours went by slowly and I listened to the radio to try and distract myself from the noise, because the more I focused on it the louder it became. The night can seem a lonely isolating place when you’re not feeling well or have troubles on your mind. In the morning I arrived at my medical centre at 8.30 just as the doors were opening and wanted reassurance that something could be done to prove the pharmacist was wrong.
The young doctor I saw informed me she was a GP trainee and listened as I explained my symptoms for the second time in two days. I was tired, scared and found it difficult to relax. You have got tinnitus she said and casually dismissed it with a wave of the hand. I sat there saying nothing. Perhaps noticing my unease at this revelation she then said, If I had tinnitus then I would ignore it because it’s nothing. There is no cure so you will have to learn to live with it. If this was her attempt at making me feel better then her bedside manner had failed dismally. At that moment all my dreams and aspirations for the future had been shot down in flames again. It was hearing those words: There is no cure. It sounded so final and devastating to me.
I left the surgery feeling miserable and worse than when I entered. I returned a few days later but was told the same thing by another GP. There is no cure, don’t worry you will get used to it. I went back eight times and eventually saw a doctor who was concerned at the amount of visits and made a referral for me to be seen at ENT. I was prescribed antidepressants that helped after a while. It was a six months wait to be seen at ENT. I habituated in two years but it was not easy. With help, belief and positive thinking I achieved it.
When a person goes to their GP for help with their tinnitus, the last thing they want to hear is, nothing can be done you have to learn to live with it. I see this as negative counselling and sends out the wrong message to someone that is likely to be under a lot of stress and feeling emotionally vulnerable. It can make a person think there is no hope which is often not he case. I believe the majority of doctors care about their patients and don’t want to see them in distress, although some need to improve their bedside manner. Therefore, an incident that was recently told to me I like to think is rare. An ENT doctor said there is no magic pill for tinnitus and I am not God. This seems to have been said out of pure frustration at not being able to do more and wasn’t meant to be personal. Unfortunately the person on the receiving end of this comment had got very emotionally upset. My GP, consultant and Hearing Therapist, have always been supportive in helping me with my tinnitus over the years and I will always be thankful to them.
The Internet is a great resource for information on any topic. Where tinnitus is concerned I believe some of it would be better left unsaid. No two people experience this condition the same and each person will respond to a particular treatment differently. There is a lot of negativity online towards some therapies and their efficacy, often by people that have never tried them or are looking for unrealistic goals and achievements. Amongst the worst places for this kind of bias and negative counselling is the tinnitus support forum although some are better than others.
My advice to anyone seeking help at a tinnitus support forum is not to continuously read postings from negative thinking people. If you do, then you might not realize that you are being conditioned into a negative mindset. Their beliefs will soon become yours and this can be detrimental to your healing process and mental wellbeing. If you are having treatment for your tinnitus, please do not discuss it as negative thinking people will try and find a way to discourage you into thinking that it wont help.
In contrast to this, there are some very informed people at tinnitus forums. Veterans, newbies and those seasoned to tinnitus. These people will not be too difficult to find and will often make themselves known. Their sage advice can inspire you with positivity and help you in the habituation process and to cope with this condition even in the downtimes should they arrive. Please listen to their words and follow in their footsteps.
I wish you well