Pat Hunt is secretary of the Kingston Hospital Tinnitus Support Group. As part of Tinnitus Awareness Week (6-12 February 2017), she gives us the lowdown about how people with tinnitus can really benefit from having access to a network of like-minded people in a support group setting.

We are one of only seven tinnitus support groups for the whole of the Greater London area so we play a vital role for people with tinnitus across the region. We meet monthly on a Thursday evening and usually between 15 and 20 people attend our meetings.  

At our group, we don’t focus on treatments or research, we prefer look at ways of coping with this hidden disability.  We provide group activities in a calm and reassuring atmosphere and some of our members have now become old friends so there is usually some laughter too!

We have ‘social’ evenings where we talk about our own coping strategies and share ideas about methods of dealing with tinnitus on a daily basis.

Guest speakers come to talk to us too and we have learned tai chi, had acupuncture and reflexology as well as mindfulness, all of these are ways of dealing with stress, which is tinnitus’ worst enemy.  Representatives from the BTA have also attended to talk about ‘sleep’ as actually getting to sleep can be a big problem.

In addition, we have some sound therapy machines which we can offer to our members to try and if they find them helpful then they can go ahead and buy a machine.

We find that having a quiet, safe place to meet with no interruptions, means that those who wish to can open up and talk about their tinnitus knowing that they will receive help and support. The main feedback I get from members is that they know they are not on their own anymore which is really gives the group a strong purpose. No matter how sympathetic friends and family are, they often don’t know what a person with tinnitus is really going through and everyone at the meeting does which can be a real comfort to members.

I’d encourage anyone who is struggling with tinnitus to think about looking for a support group in their area as they may find it can really help them learn to live with their condition but at the same time help them to meet people who also have it. Developing a network of like-minded people who understand the problems tinnitus causes can be of enormous benefit for some.”

To find out if there is a support group near you, please visit: www.tinnitus.org.uk/find-a-support-group.

Tinnitus Awareness Week runs from 6-12 February 2017 aiming to get the nation talking about tinnitus and highlight the stories of those living with it. For more information please keep visiting the site this week.