Close your eyes, put your hands over your ears and hum, a high pitched hum, now try and imagine going about your everyday life with that noise constantly ringing in your ears. For one Derby man this is his reality as he suffers from tinnitus. Mild in one ear and severe in the other. It has altered his life but now thanks to finding a passion for cycling he is learning to live with it.

Tim Lye, aged 41, has had mild tinnitus in his right ear since he was at university, something he puts down to slightly over exuberant student years, clubbing and spending time in loud, noisy places. He coped with the ringing in his ear for many years until 2007 when it suddenly got worse. He explained:

“I was living in Singapore at the time as I moved there for work. I woke up following a night out and the noise in my ears was suddenly louder, it was very notable and really annoying. I thought it would ease off as the day went on but it didn’t. It started to affect the way I was at work, at home and it made concentration and sleep very difficult.

“When I returned back to the UK to live I saw a specialist who said that my hearing level had dropped and sent me for and MRI scan. This identified a tumour in my ear canal called an Acoustic Neuroma. I had surgery to remove the tumour and lost all hearing on my right side and a clipped facial nerve in surgery left me with facial paralysis.

“The loss of hearing affected my balance and walking, something I’d done without difficulty for decades, suddenly became difficult. 

“It took eleven months after to surgery for me to be able to return to work and thankfully my employers, a large manufacturing company, were very understanding and helped with reduced hours until I was able to work full time again.

“Six months after the operation my tinnitus became very real. Having lived with mild tinnitus for so many years I saw it as a mild irritant and inconvenience, but what I experienced next was horrendous.

“As I started to learn to cope with my bad balance and facial paralysis following the surgery, there was one ailment which I just couldn’t cope with, this was the tinnitus. As the noise was deaf in my deaf ear, I couldn’t hear anyone speak or sing into it to help mask the sound. All I could hear was a constant high pitched constant sound, it was awful! I felt like I was going to explode and every day became a struggle.

“Work, life, everything became too much and after two years of this I was ready to quit work, a job I had once loved, thankfully my employers found me a different position within the company and I was able to work with reduced stress and pressures of my previous role.

“I guess I sat and wallowed for a few years. I was a young-ish man with lots to look forward to and this came along and really turned my life upside down. It was the tinnitus that made me think that I couldn’t do my job any longer.

“Thanks to help from the British Tinnitus Association (BTA), with their brochures and support, and getting a new high frequency hearing aid and discovering a love of cycling I feel like I’ve turned a real corner.

“Yes, I’ve changed my socialising, I choose not to go to busy places to meet friends, I just don’t enjoy it but I’ve got good friends and we meet in quitter places where we can hear each other talk. The cycling has helped to improve my balance and the noise of the wind in my good ear is quite soothing.

“Don’t get me wrong, I still have some bad days as the tinnitus is always there, and I’m always conscious of it but I have learned lots of distraction techniques and I take the BTA’s advice and try to ignore it, which at first was easier said than done, but it does actually work.

“I did a fundraising cycle in 2012 to raise money for the BTA because this is a cause which is so close to my heart. I want to raise awareness and help others who are suffering with tinnitus. There is currently no cure but there are lots of things that can help.

“Ignorance of this condition can be quite distressing, I posted something about my cycle ride on Facebook to help with raising awareness and a friend of a friend commented ‘tinnitus, now that rings a bell,’ thinking they were being witty. It’s not something to be sniggered at or mocked. It is a condition which can be quite debilitating. I’ve turned my corner and I’m pleased to be able to support the BTA and help them to continue to raise awareness of this condition.

“A few years ago I was at my wits end and now I can see a bright future ahead as I saddle up and take on my cycling challenges.”