Samantha Baines (30), is a British comedian, actress and broadcaster who despite having tinnitus for most of her life has only recently been diagnosed. Here, Samantha, who is about to embark on a UK tour with her science comedy stand up show and has also appeared in hit programmes such as Silent Witness, Call the Midwife and The Crown, explains how tinnitus has impacted on her life and why she is supporting the British Tinnitus Association’s work during Tinnitus Week (5-11 February 2018) to raise awareness of how children and young people are affected by the condition.

My tinnitus journey

I’ve only just realised that I’ve actually had tinnitus for years and years. It’s been quite a revelation! I’d always been very aware of a high pitched beep that I heard from being a young child but just got on with it and at that stage it was not too troublesome. But, after attending the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2015, I started to experience another sound – like a wavering air noise, that was brought on by being in loud environments.

It became more and more prominent so last year I went to the doctor. I had heard of tinnitus but because I wouldn’t describe my noises as ringing in my ear I just dismissed that as a possibility and wondered if I had a lingering ear infection or something else. I watch too many Youtube videos and the idea that I might have a family of spiders living in my ear was also quite a worry!

I was, therefore, really shocked to discover that I had hearing loss in one ear, enough to need a hearing aid, and tinnitus.

Despite being a bit apprehensive about my diagnosis, it was really helpful to finally put a name to what I have had all these years and understand a bit more about what I have been experiencing. I also no longer feel alone as I’ve discovered just how many people out there also have the condition.

 

My new tinnitus sound is definitely brought on by loud environments so I am much more conscious of that. I have just bought some new moulded ear plugs which I carry with me at all times and I find the tube particularly loud so I know I need to be prepared when travelling. My hearing aid has also helped me manage the condition and I am a bit pickier about where I go so if I walk into a restaurant and it is too loud I leave and find somewhere else.

 

I was really interested to discover that Tinnitus Week this year is focused on children and young people because I have vivid memories as a child asking people if they could hear the beep that I was hearing and just being told no.

I didn’t even realise children could have tinnitus so to be able to support the work of the BTA, encourage conversations about tinnitus and raise awareness of the new resources for parents and teachers is great. As I am newly diagnosed, speaking to others with the condition as well as organisations like the BTA is helping me come to terms with it all and learn more about tinnitus in general.

My advice  

My main advice to a child or young person with tinnitus is to understand your sounds, some people have more than one, and each is brought on by something different so it could be helpful to know what the triggers are. Talking about it and getting involved can also be useful so people around you can better understand how to support you when you need it. Also, finding your own strategies to cope is important – different things work for different people. I have my ear plugs and also find playing low-level classical music during quiet times can really help relax me and distract my mind from my tinnitus.

 

I wish I’d had more information like this when I was younger as I may have got a diagnosis and relevant support earlier.

Tinnitus Week runs from 5-11 February 2018 aiming to get the nation talking about tinnitus and highlight the stories of those living with it. This year’s focus is children and young people. For more information please visit the British Tinnitus Association’s website www.tinnitus.org.uk. You can also follow the hashtag #TinnitusWeek on social media. To download the new BTA resources designed for parents and teachers to understand more about tinnitus and to support children with the condition visit: www.tinnitus.org.uk/Pages/Category/tinnitus-in-children