In July 2020, and with no warning or cause, I experienced the sudden onset of tinnitus - an all pervading, ever-present 'noise' in both ears; think: walking under overhead cables, but louder. I resolved to tell no-one, only finally telling my partner, Rob, nearly 5 MONTHS later when he spotted a hearing aid on the pavement and commented that 'Of course, that can't be yours...'. It was. (The perils of Covid mask wearing and removal...!) Unbeknownst to him I had tried various 'remedies', consulted a private audiologist, and had had discussions with my GP who had referred me to the local hearing loss service. There, now feeling pretty emotionally wrecked, I had been issued with hearing aids (longer hair has provided good concealment!) in the hope these would magnify sound and thus detract from the tinnitus. They didn't. The increased sound caused greater distress so the amplification was turned off but the 'Tinnitus Manager' (TM) facility within the hearing aids switched on. The effect is the constant sound of waves splashing against the seashore - as distracting as the tinnitus which remains very audible.

I have continued to resist broadcasting this unwelcome development - I didn't want it to become a 'thing', and still don't. But 1 person in 8 suffers with this incurable condition, so maybe you? We have to learn how to self-manage it - IF we can. It is a destroyer of peace, a destroyer of silence, a bringer of anxiety and distress; it fights to be heard above music, conversation, laughter, tv - everything. The clock, the radio, the birds, a voice - none of these are the first sounds on waking; the tinnitus is. And it is the last sound at night before sleep comes - IF it comes. Some people apparently get used to it - as yet I have not, but am determined to try to control it and not allow it to control me. Not easy.

The government (Mr. Hancock himself) is well aware that funding is greatly needed to assist research and as 1st - 7th February is TINNITUS WEEK, the condition is being highlighted. It is that which has prompted me to 'out' myself now in the hope that, even in this particularly tough period (research shows that the Covid-19 pandemic has made Tinnitus worse for nearly half of UK sufferers), I can add to the funds of the wonderful British Tinnitus Association (BTA - no direct government funding so 100% reliant on donations), the research, support and care from which has benefitted so many. Additionally, tinnitus experts state that avoidance prolongs negative emotions and acceptance may reduce the emotional intensity and duration over time. If we as people living with tinnitus don’t talk openly about the condition and how it impacts on our lives, how can we expect others to understand it? If YOU don't know about tinnitus, please do look at www.tinnitus.org.uk

And 'help to stop the 'noise' - thank you.

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Ann Vicars