The current lockdown is not my first experience of one. I also know what it's like to be nursed in isolation with a virus. Strangely both occurred in the same country - Thailand - where I worked from 1972-1975.

The first event I recall with clarity, as it felt like a near death experience at the time. Shortly after a weekend visit to Chantaburi province, I came down with a slight fever and temperature. A visit to the local GPs produced a verdict of a bug of unknown cause and I was put on antibiotics and sent home.

The next night I came down with a temperature of over 40°C and suffering from photophobia (sensitivity to light). I rang the clinic and they advised that I should be in hospital, but there was no ambulance available due to Bangkok traffic! I don’t remember much after this as I went into a coma, and I was barrier nursed for the next two weeks. I did come round, the time to recover from the experience took several months.

On my return to the UK, I had extensive tests at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases which concluded the virus was of unknown origin.

The second experience was a lockin rather than a lockdown, caused by the attempted student coup of 1973.

I was not at work that day as I had received a call to stay at home as there was a danger that farangs (foreigners) might be targeted. I lived in a gated compound and fortunately had plenty of food and beer! This on the face of it sounded relatively comfortable except for several problems. The local Thai television stations were off air and the telephone service was unreliable. And of course there were no mobile phones and no internet, so there was no communications. So in effect we were isolated and locked in. Our instructions were to listen to the BBC for information.

The riots lasted for nine days before the military used helicopter gunships to put them down. Needless to say it took some time for normal life to resume.

So there we have it. Two separate incidents involving isolation and lockin/down. Did this prepare me for 2020 lockdown? Well yes, in a way it did. Firstly in giving me an understanding of what Covid-19 patients are going through and what is required by the nurses and doctors in treating them. Secondly, coping with the lockdown has been made a lot easier by modern communications: the internet, TV with Netflix, mobiles and WhatsApp for video calls.

Isolation and tinnitus are not a great combination. As my partner and I are both in our 70s, we are classified as high risk. So apart from a weekly supermarket shop (no delivery slots), we are housebound.

It was fortunate that a treadmill I had in storage was recovered and installed just prior to the lockdown. In addition I had recently acquired a set of wireless  headphones. Like most of us sufferers, I use distraction techniques to try and alleviate my constant companion, tinnitus. 

As part of my daily routine, I  use the treadmill with a target of 5 miles starting at 7.30 in the morning (and 8.30 at weekends). This is done with my wireless headset on with a selection of yoga, meditation and classical music to make it more enjoyable.

The afternoon sees a further 2-3 miles before tea. My overall aim is to do 10,000 steps per day. Because of this my tinnitus is in remission and makes coping with the lockdown slightly more bearable. My other half now also uses the treadmill so we now get between 25 and 30 hours exercise per week - and fresh air when the French doors are open,weather permitting!

So my conclusion is that isolation and lockdown in 2020 is way better than I experienced in the Seventies and as a result we have much to be thankful for.

I am thankful I am still here, I am thankful for the help given us by the NHS and the community and of course from Help in Hearing and the BTA. I am thankful for modern communications and all the technology that goes hand in hand to help everyone sick and well, young and old.

Tinnitus remains as an old friend of 30 years plus, and I hope that one day we will find a cure. As indeed we will find a vaccine for Covid-19.

My only wish is that if we could only put in the same national effort into tinnitus research as for Covid-19 maybe a cure would be more forthcoming. Then the estimated 8 million sufferers may find relief.

Here’s hoping.

Things that make my tinnitus worse:

  • Stress 
  • Caffeine (tea or coffee)
  • Alcohol
  • Poor sleep
  • Certain frequencies of noise
  • Frustration caused by hearing problems

Things that help my tinnitus:

  • Exercise - on the treadmill or yoga
  • Cutting down on coffee and tea or using decaff
  • Redusing my alcohol intake
  • Using background noise - music or talk shows
  • Taking up a hobby - I like to cook
  • Using ear plugs, particular in cinemas or at concerts
  • Using noise blocking WiFi headphones