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British Tinnitus Association

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How do others find their condition(s) effect their ability to process information through conversation or reading?

I have Tinnitus 24/7 due to hearing loss and always hear it - it competes with background noise. I also have hyperacusis (noise sensitivity). So, there are a lot of factors. I cannot pin everything down to one condition. As I understand I've not competely habituated to my conditions.

When I'm reading, I find some background noise is fine, but if it's too quiet or too loud I cannot seem to process what I read. Respectively, Tinnitus is intrusive or I'm irritated due to Hyperacusis.

During conversation, especially if others are having conversations around me (probably due to Hyperacusis) or there is loud background noise (probably due to Hyperacusis and hearing loss), I struggle to filtered out our those conversations or loud noise interferes). In particular, I lose track of lengthy conversation as I try to process key information.

I have hearing aids which do help somewhat, but I find it better to switch them off in some environments.

What are your experiences? What conditions do you have and can you relate to this in part or in whole?

13 Replies

Well daverussell I’m so glad I don’t have hyperacusis. The competition between the outside, real, noises and the ones in your head must be hard to bear. My T can be heard when I’m driving at 70 on a busy motorway, in circumstances whether one would have to talk loudly if a conversation is being held. The T is improved by wearing hearing aids, because the real world can compete a little more easily. I’m best without background noise. The T doesn’t usually impinge upon my reading nor radio/tv listening, I suspect because I’ve had T for so long that I’m just used to it.

But I certainly struggle to filter out background noise such as conversations. Whilst I look forward to going back into restaurants when we are allowed, I do find it hard to hold a normal conversation in a busy restaurant. Parties are impossible. And yes, I can lose track of lengthy conversations and/or radio programmes. Ive put that down to age, though (74).

Life can be quite hard sometimes BUT I am very very fortunate in that I have enough money to live on, a loving and loved husband, family and friends when I can see them, and living in a beautiful part of the country, West Sussex. Those are my fortunate circumstances and my religion helps, too.

Happyrosie thank you for the reply. I always look forward to reading all your contributions.

Long car journeys at speed are very stressful from road noise - Tinnitus and Hyperacusis combined.

I have learned to over come the stress, or at least like it was at the beginning when it became invasive. Although, it may have been triggered/spiked following an illness and loss of a family member. It has it's moment, but I know they are short term.

Hi Daverussell, firstly I just want to say I can wholeheartedly empathise with your situation as I too have T loud enough at times to keep my mind whirring round and wondering what is going on in the outside world as I feel so trapped ‘inside my own head’. It’s so so draining just trying to manage the symptoms and function with day to day tasks without having to follow conversations and the like. I am totally deaf in my right ear and have some very mild (low tones) hearing loss in my left. I have a hearing aid but it’s more to allow me to hear conversation from my right side. I don’t use it as I find it makes my T worse.

I have experience H too and it’s literally the worst affliction. It comes and goes but mostly either isn’t there or is mild. I find most mornings upon waking and my 2 young kids come into my room it is at its worst...something to do with being in a quiet room one minute then chaos the next.

I admire you so much that you work and especially in a classroom. Ever since my eldest started school I have had a desire to go work in school in a support type role but I just can’t bring myself to do it due to the potential noise.

I lost my job a year ago and I think in part it was due to me not performing as I was so distracted by my symptoms. In addition to the ear stuff I also have headaches and a dissociative type feeling which I’ve been seeing a therapist for, I essentially feel like I am stuck with my head in a fishbowl all day everyday. From the sound echoing around the bowl to the way things look a bit weird like I’m looking through a fishbowl.

I often feel like my only hearing ear is ‘plugged’, like it needs to pop (I’ve had ETD ruled out). All my symptoms have culminated in lots of specialist appointments, CT, MRI, bloods etc and a final diagnosis of chronic migraine. I’m not convinced.

Just last night I was having dinner with my family and found myself getting angry and frustrated and my plate, husband & kids because my ear was driving me mad and I was taking it out on them.

So yes I feel ya, I am here for ya and it bloody sucks. Like so much.

Sorry, long reply which I haven’t read back to myself as I can’t focus anyway. Yours optimistically pessimistic, Abi xx

lemons77 in reply to lemons77

PS think that should have said pessimistically optimistic!?

daverussell in reply to lemons77

Thank you so much for the effort in your response.

I worked in the IT industry, where I was a software developer and various roles prior to that. I was frustrated with the sentry work, so moved into teaching five years ago. I absolutely love teaching, but found with my hearing loss it was difficult to interact with the whole class (questions and answers). Hearing aids didn't help, so I briefly moved back into software development. A mixture of the noisy office and extended periods of concentraction were impossible, especially around expectations to solve and deliver solutions quickly, among learning company procedures and new technical developments. The company where less than sympathetic.

I decided to cut my losses after numerous meetings with my boss requesting adjustment, to little or no avail.

I chose to move into a support worker role - if only just temporary should I manage to adapt and feel confident to teach again. I'd already had some brief experience with support and found it incredibly rewarding and still do a year on - so there's no loss. The way i see it now is, like the students that I support, with their special education needs, I have to execute strategies to overcome a disability.

Hi Daverussell, I have a very white noise type tinnitus and severe hearing loss in one and moderate in my good ear. I know exactly what you mean about conversation though - I find that I 'hear' sound but can't comprehend the words. I always find myself saying that I might not catch everything being said - as I don't want to appear rude or ignorant - but I do have to giggle sometimes, as I totally mishear things. (Like my husband asking my to buy bungle cream at the chemist (was fungal cream) - we both just creased up laughing. I find that I watch TV with the sound off or on a very low volume with subtitles on a lot of the time (especially after work) otherwise everything becomes blah blah blah. I just find it more relaxed that way and I can follow what's going on.

Has anyone ever done a speech recognition test with you? I had this done privately- but in an NHS hospital. (My local ENT were very unhelpful) They found that my 1 hearing aid was woefully inadequate and as a consequence ( and after waiting a very long time) I have finally got an appointment for fitting of new hearing aids (yay!!!) I don't know if a different hearing aid would help you - but I was told by my 2nd consultant that my 1 hearing aid would never work as I was just amplifying rubbish!

I have to agree on driving that sound can be very distracting! I hate to say I always take my aid out as I can't stand the whooshing noises - it makes my white noise 'turn up'. I find journeys mess with my ears in general anyway- and mine have always popped, even before the hearing loss.

I could write so much more - but I keep going off on a tangent! Well done if you get to the end of this :-) just know you are not alone in how your hearing affects you!

meggiemog thank you for the response.

I know that I loose track of conversation because I'm trying to decipher certain words. I then switch off, if the conversation goes on for a length of time as I've lost track and missed the point. Whilst, my work in the classroom requires me to understand what students need to do, if I the student doesn't understand, it's as much my job to get them to ask for themselves. Failing that I ask for clarification.

I also do silly mistakes sending emails or messages as I struggle to proof read, especially when I inadvertantly change what I've written. Erm, even like I've done in this post.

I turn off my hearing aids as often as I have them on. But I often forget I've turned them off, so half the time they are glorified earplugs 😁. I've just found out my audiologist is still open during lockdown, so I'm going to book an appointment and ask about alternatives, including trying different eardomes.

Yes, I've done tests including speech recognition, but these are generally short and simple conversations, so I don't feel that I really struggle, but I do have to concentrate.

In fact, I was going to mention in my OP that last year I volunteered for a study for how Tinnitus effects Executive Function. I came across the study and have been intrigued about this for some time. However, I came out above average! Having said that I've had further questions about my particular circumstances in relation to this study... By no means do I criticise the study as it was aimed to answer particular questions based on a study of several or a few hundred volunteers; it was not designed for individual needs. Neither was it really aimed at hyperacusis. I haven't read the study either, or seen the final results. So, I can only base a response from my experience as a volunteer in the study... Firstly, the tests with the exception of one did not include excessive background noise, and secondly, the study was done under lab conditions. Moreover I could argue they did not have a base line for me, so could only draw an average from either the general population or for those who had previously volunteered for the study or similar studies. In other words, as a software developer, it would be reasonable for me to state that I have an above average executive function anyway.

Again thank you for you response and likewise thank you for reading this far 😊.

I think sometimes I actually find my brain switches my hearing off when I am tired! I always find at the start of a working week I can concentrate so much better - by the end of the week everything gets a bit garbled! I didn't realise how much brain power hearing actually takes. Most work nights I just want to fall asleep as it knocks me for six. I can guess that teaching will be doubly difficult.

I think you've hit the nail on the head.

Hi Daverussel, I'm not replying from personal experience but my mother recently had a sudden and quite dramatic increase in tinnitus which hasn't gone away. She is 88 but sharp of mind and has said it's affecting her other senses. She is forgetting things and not understanding things as quickly sometimes as a result. Not surprising as it must be more difficult to think clearly with all that noise going on 24/7. We are looking into what changes we can make with her hearing aids that might help, though low level background noise doesn't seem to help her much.I worked in special needs at a school for a few years and am very impressed you can cope with the classroom noise. Sounds like you are doing well and I agree it seems to be a case of finding strategies to overcome the disability.

All the best.

daverussell in reply to Mogdog

Many thanks for the insight. I'm convinced my hearing condition is having an impact but it's hard to say how directly it is having an impact. It could be related to stress or due to lack of sleep or quality of sleep. At 46 yrs old I'm not exactly old but I'm not getting young either.

I think I may need to address insomnia and keep up energy level throughout the day.

I found this blog linking hearing loss to, so called, 'auditory fatigue'.

I also found a study that discusses tinnitus and fatigue. These are extracts from the study...

"It is unclear whether fatigue causes tinnitus symptoms to worsen or if tinnitus causes fatigue, but a relationship between the two seems to exist...

Tinnitus has been found to be connected with emotional exhaustion, with sleep disturbance, and with insomnia... Persons in employment who suffer from the combination of hearing loss and tinnitus may be at a similar risk of developing chronic fatigue...

The correlation between the measure of tinnitus severity and fatigue level indicates that the worse your tinnitus affects you, the more fatigued you are likely to be."

Hi there

I suppose we all different but I’ve had tinnitus all life and ranges from loud buzz to a siren going off. Didn’t have heating test in school but eventually 10 years ago was told I got significant hearing loss maybe 70+ dB mid frequency Reluctantly I got aids but at times the amplification increases the tinnitus so much I sometimes feel like am totally deaf as can’t make out anything over the 2 noises going off in head. I reluctantly use the aids because of this and also when I take out the tinnitus is louder than ever and takes a while calm down sometimes and seems to take time for what hearing I have to come back cos of it. It don’t feel like am sensitive to sound but wondered if you feel the same. Am using less and less cos of it but told need use the aids as will help retain the hearing I have but as is am better off without. Particularly in social situation. Thanks 🙏

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