Imagine walking up in hospital with severe injuries but having absolutely no recollection of what happened and why you are there. That is exactly what happened to Sheffield man, Ian Foster, who suffered a mysterious incident which left him with a brain injury and a daily battle with tinnitus, the debilitating hearing problem.

Said Ian (60): “It was back in 2007 and my wife, Helen, had gone away to look after her mum’s dog for the night but when she returned she found me in bed covered in blood with really serious injuries. I was barely conscious so she phoned an ambulance immediately and I was whisked off to hospital. I was put into the high dependency unit until the bleeding on my brain stopped but when I woke up again I had absolutely no memory of what had happened.

“We still do not have the answers which is difficult but we have deduced that I was either hit by a car or attacked and that somehow, in a very confused state, I managed to get home. But whatever happened left me with severe injuries including a fractured skull, broken ribs and a severed ear.

“I was self-employed in the building industry but due to my brain injury, I was unable to go back to work for two years. The Sheffield Brain Injury Clinic has been very supportive to me but it has been a long road to recovery and even now I can only work for about 40 days a year due to how tired I get. The other, most distressing issue I have been left with, which started almost immediately after my injury, is 24/7 tinnitus.

“I hear a high-pitched screech every minute of every day and the effect on my life is massive because it is just always there and it makes it particularly difficult for me to get to sleep which causes a lot of problems.

“At first I had no idea what the noise was which was very worrying and when I was told about tinnitus I had never even heard of it. But I was referred to hearing services and that was when I found out more and understood a bit more about the condition.

“Once I knew what it was, I made the decision that I had to find a way to live with it so I could try and lead as normal a life as possible. I think the most important thing is acceptance. Accepting you have this condition and it is not going to go away and then you just have to find your own ways of dealing with it.

“Following my brain injury I had to surrender my driving license which meant I had to walk an awful lot more. Doing this made me realise that traffic noise is at a really similar frequency to my tinnitus so I find going for a walk and getting out and about can be really helpful. The other thing I couldn’t now live without is the sound therapy machine which we bought from the British Tinnitus Association (BTA). It has made a huge difference to me and helps me get to sleep as the quietness of night-time made my tinnitus almost unbearable. Even my wife says she finds it really relaxing and helps her get to sleep now!

“I am all for finding out as much as I can about tinnitus, talking about it with other people who suffer from it and looking into the different techniques recommended to help. It makes me feel more in control of it. I used to be a member of the Sheffield Tinnitus Association before it was dissolved and have now just started going to the self-help groups held at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital as they are the ideal places to talk to people who understand exactly what you are going through. Tinnitus is just not understood by the vast majority of people – you can’t see it so people just can’t identify with it at all so it is important you find those people who appreciate what you are going through.

“My advice to anyone else who thinks they may have tinnitus is to get your GP and ask to be referred to hearing services. Then find out as much as you can about the condition, go to as many meetings as you, there are self-help groups up and down the country, or join the BTA and take any options that are available such as the sound therapy machines. I am also hoping to try tai chi and other relaxation techniques soon so it important to be open to trying new things so the tinnitus doesn’t overwhelm your life. And talk to people with the condition. The more knowledge you have the better prepared you are to deal with it.”