How Tinnitus Changed Our Clients Life
Tinnitus Awareness Week, a campaign by the British Tinnitus Association, runs from the 8th – 14th February. It's often underestimated just how much this condition affects a person's everyday life, and those who do have tinnitus may not fully know the ways they can manage the condition. Many think that tinnitus is solely caused by exposure to loud noises.
Claire Roantree, Head of Serious Personal Injury at Simpson Millar and her client Andy Smith, are talking about his experience with tinnitus to start changing these misconceptions:
Claire Explains How Andy's Tinnitus Started
My client, Andy Smith, aged 36 at the time and now 38, was hit over the head with a bottle wine; this fractured the petrous bone on the left side of his skull and perforated his left eardrum. The head injury damaged Andy's cranial nerve, causing facial palsy (paralysis or Bell's Palsy). He also suffered significantly reduced hearing and tinnitus on his left side.
Andy has suffered with many symptoms because of the attack, but he feels the tinnitus is by far the most difficult problem to live with.
Reduced or total hearing loss is often accompanied by tinnitus after this type of injury. For Andy, his hearing has reduced around 90% in his left ear. Andy's case is interesting because it shows how tinnitus isn't isolated to a "ringing noise in the ears"
; his comes in many different frequencies and sounds.
After the attack he was diagnosed with Hyperacusis, which means he is much more sensitive to unexpected loud noises. This can exacerbate the tinnitus and cause severe headaches, nausea and dizziness. Andy has found some reprieve through mindfulness techniques; helping to relax his nerves and facial muscles. A hearing aid helps with hearing loss but not tinnitus.
Here, my client talks about the various ways in which tinnitus has impacted on his life, the advice he has been given along the way, what he has found helpful and what has not worked for him.
Andy Tells His Story
Since my attack 18 months ago, I have suffered numerous difficulties, some of these being symptoms such as Bell’s Palsy, which is a form of facial paralysis, loss of taste, and the inability to blink. I have put on more than 2 stone in weight due to being prescribed steroids to help with stimulating the nerve cells, sleep deprivation, vertigo and many other conditions that I have had to deal with and overcome.
But, by far the worst condition that I have that is the hardest to deal with has been the condition tinnitus. Two years ago I had never heard of tinnitus, now it is such a controlling factor of my life which is with me 24/7. It never leaves me and has changed me as a person in so many ways, I am now very wary of the surroundings that I am in and also the types of places or venues that I am able to be in.
The Different Types of Tinnitus Sounds
After being diagnosed with tinnitus I have found out that there are 3 types of sounds that I suffer from and also a separate condition called Hyperacusis.
- The first and most regular sound that I hear is a constant loud thudding sound which I can only describe as a helicopter which is extremely close by. It is by far the most difficult to deal with as it is not a consistent tone and is definitely the loudest of the three that I hear.
- The second is a low pitched drilling sound and as with the first can vary in different volumes depending on the severity of the tinnitus.
- The last is a very high pitched tone, I can describe it to be similar to the high pitched sound you hear in a hospital when a heart monitor loses a patient’s heart beat. I do find that I am able to deal with this sound easier as it is high pitched and is not as aggravating as the low severe sounds.
Since having tinnitus I have also been diagnosed with Hyperacusis, this means that any unexpected noises can be produced to me at a level up to five times louder than the normal person would hear them
at. This has made me very wary about putting myself into places or situations which may affect me. An example would be fireworks, which are now the bane of my life and a terrible time of the year for me.
"Tinnitus Is With Me At All Times"
Before being diagnosed with tinnitus I had a much more active social lifestyle, often going out to see Arsenal play football, going to different music concerts at large venues and also going to large parties or social gatherings. I am now unable to do these types of things as the noise would make my tinnitus so severe it will start to affect me through severe headaches, sometimes feeling nauseous, and if it's really bad, it can bring on vertigo where I lose my balance and I am unable to stand or walk without falling over.
On a normal day the tinnitus is with me at all times, at a steady and moderate volume but can worsen very quickly by different things. The weather plays a big part of tinnitus which can make it much more aggressive if conditions are extreme, but other things such as the volume of the TV or radio, being in a crowded room, and especially unexpected noises.
The first thing that happens to me when my tinnitus gets worse is an aggravating headache. Because of this, the first thing that the body tells you to do is to scrunch your face up and your muscles start to tighten and your eyes will start to squint. Sometimes to try and subdue it, I will take Ibuprofen, but this rarely works.
Finding Relief Through Mindfulness
I have been to see a specialist in tinnitus management who has taught me the technique of mindfulness; this is by far the best thing that helps when the tinnitus becomes severe. It is not a cure but a very quick technique which helps me to manage the severity and can help to relax and subdue the headache to stop the nausea and vertigo from coming on.
The technique that I use is to take myself to the quietest place that I can find and sit, I will then concentrate on releasing tension from every muscle in my body, my mouth, my eyes, my forehead, even my arms shoulders and feet. I ensure that I am completely relaxed and not tensed at all.
I find it fascinating that this technique helps me to relax and after a few minutes I am able to get on with a normal day. It can be used as much as required, but I have found that the sooner you relax the quicker you will start to recover.
Hearing Aids Offer Little Help for Tinnitus
Since the attack I have had numerous hearing tests by specialists who have confirmed that I have lost 90% hearing in my left ear. I now find it very difficult to keep up with conversations, especially when there is more than one person; I have to be facing the person I am speaking to, preferably with my right ear closest to them.
I have been prescribed a hearing aid which in some situations helps me, especially when in a one to one conversation, but unfortunately, it does not help when in more of a social gathering and involved in multiple conversations. There is no help with the tinnitus from the hearing aid as it only turns up the frequency of the voices and the tinnitus feels as though it comes from a more inner part of the ear. I am careful as to when and where I use my hearing aid as it can produce very high pitched frequency feedback which can cause issues with my Hyperacusis and can actually make things worse.
Andy's Words of Advice for Other Sufferers
A specialist said to me that the best advice he can give me is not to try to beat the tinnitus but to try to manage it as best as you can, as there is no cure. Concentrate on your breathing and relaxing your facial muscles. Understand what it is that affects your tinnitus and have the knowledge to consider what will affect you, and try your best to avoid these situations. Try to remain positive in your life and find different things to enjoy and to keep you stimulated.
Having tinnitus is the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. I now realise that it is probably going to be with me for the rest of my life. I am a very motivated person; I will always rise to any challenge that faces me and will not stop until I succeed.
All of the conditions I have had from the attack I have had a massive recovery from; I have lost my weight, my eye is now blinking properly, I have 75% movement back in my face from the paralysis and am now no longer embarrassed to talk to friends and family or to meet new people.
Take a "Can Do" Attitude
All of these have been beaten with a can-do attitude and by putting my heart and soul into physiotherapy, going to the gym, doing numerous exercises at home. However painful the experience and hard the challenge, I will ensure I give it my all as I realise that everything I do is part of the journey to making a full recovery.
The tinnitus however has no physio, no stretching, and no medication to help relieve it. For a highly motivated person who would go to any lengths needed to cure it, being told there is nothing I can do is the hardest thing to take.
Being knowledgeable, having a strong attitude to control it, knowing techniques to manage it and ensuring I am in control of the environments that I am in, however frustrating, painful and depressing it can be, I now feel I am in as much control as I can be and once again have a positive outlook on life
Keep Updated With Andy's Progress
We're pleased to see that Andy is making leaps and bounds and is keeping a positive outlook no matter how difficult living with tinnitus can be. Andy is still working with Claire Roantree with the aim of seeking compensation for the harm caused
by the attack, but we will make sure to keep you updated with his progress and the outcome of his case.
Tinnitus is often caused by hearing damage from noise exposure
, so we hope that Andy's case makes more people aware that tinnitus can be caused by physical injuries and trauma.As this case shows, tinnitus has serious, life changing consequences. If you are suffering from tinnitus, and you think it could be related to noise exposure at work or following a personal injury, our Occupational Illness and Personal Injury teams at Simpson Millar could be able to help.To see how we can help, contact us today on 0808 129 3320.