Last updated on 19 April 2012
I was 14 when I discovered the joys of loud music. I spent hours listening to my stereo through headphones; it soon progressed to using cassette players, walkmans and MP3 players during school. I then would go home and play my guitar, turning my amp full volume.
When I was 16 I noticed that my ears had been ringing for a few weeks but I just shrugged it off thinking it would go away eventually, but, after those weeks turned into months, I realised something was horribly wrong. It was only by chance that I came across an article in a magazine about tinnitus that I realised that I had seriously damaged my hearing.
The following six months proved extremely traumatic for me. I suffered from daily panic attacks and sleep deprivation. I remember being constantly ill through worry. The worst part was that I knew it was my own fault, and that I’d ignored the warnings. Blaming myself turned into self-hate, which then manifested into self-harm. At this time I started hearing the tinnitus in my sleep which triggered reoccurring dreams about not being able to cope anymore, my thoughts usually turned to suicide upon waking up.
While this was happening, my social life also suffered as I couldn’t bring myself to go out with friends in case I was exposed to loud noise through clubs and gigs. I remember trying to confide in a friend only to have her laugh and say “Do you hear voices too?” I lost trust in the people closest to me because they couldn’t understand what I was going through.
The turning point was when I was 18, I wanted my life back. I knew that it wasn’t going to go away so I started to read up on the condition and research ways of drowning out the ringing, but because it was so loud I found that diverting my attention and just learning to “switch off” were my best methods. This took a while to master but in the long run it worked quite well for 3 years. I then discovered that my boyfriends clock makes a constant grinding noise as the hands turn and I found that sleeping with that next to me works wonders, I have not had a panic attack since I started using it.
I have learned to cope with tinnitus; my life is that of a normal 21 year old. I play bass guitar, I am a vocalist in a band and I go to gigs, but what differentiates me from the others is that I wear earplugs at all times and take regular breaks. When I read that there was a media opportunity for someone with tinnitus in my age group I jumped at the chance because younger people are more likely to listen to someone closer to their age group. I have spoken to people who have been under the influence that tinnitus is an ‘old persons’ condition and I wanted to show that it can affect anyone of any age group.
Going on GMTV was a good opportunity to get the message across. I am not a particularly shy person, but my nerves did get the better of me when I sat on the couch. What kept me together was that I was doing something I believe in. If this stops just a small handful of people from exposing themselves to loud noise I would be happy knowing that I helped make a difference.
The turning point was when I was 18, I wanted my life back.