Ten Years On – The Silver Linings
An emotional true story about sudden hearing loss, tinnitus and the journey back.
It began one afternoon, ten years ago, whilst being driven in a car to a family gathering. I had taken a nap as I had the beginnings of a migraine, and I woke up with a start - my head resting on the passenger side window - and I could hear ringing. After a while I realised the ringing was inside my head! We arrived at our destination. I assumed the ringing would abate, and having had the migraine en route - I put it down to that.
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After several weeks, as the ringing continued, I went to see my GP (General Practitioner) who luckily referred me to my local hospitals ENT (Ear Nose Throat) department. At the time I had it in my mind that it may have been caused by an ear infection or something like that. I had my hearing tested and then waited for the consultant to see me to discuss the results. In his office they ran further tests – tuning forks to the side of my head being one of them – and then he turned to me and said ‘I’m sorry to tell you, but you are deaf’, and he placed my audiogram in front of me to illustrate the loss.
I was stunned! I argued with him. How could I be deaf? I could hear! He covered his mouth with his hand and continued to speak – his words no longer discernible. He pointed out that I partly relied on lip reading to understand communications and probably had done for some time. My mind was whirring and I hardly took in anything else he was telling me, other than he was prescribing 2 hearing aids for my congenital bi-lateral sensorineural hearing loss. He then concluded his diagnosis by explaining that the ringing in my ears was tinnitus, the sudden onset of which had heralded, and in turn lead me to, the discovery of my hearing loss.
I was panicking. I was a singer, could I still sing? I played in bands in live music situations – what now? It was my passion, a huge part of my life for as long as I could remember. He indicated to me that I would be able to continue but with caution and care in loud noise situations. And I left his clinic.
That day began a whole new chapter of my life. I was shocked and devastated, but within those emotions I also knew that this was why I had been struggling with my health and wellbeing. I had been experiencing low energy levels and extreme tiredness – impacting my daily life. I began to fervently research all I could find on tinnitus and hearing loss. In those days, in my experience, the support groups and quality information available was not as prevalent. I felt lost and alone with it all. My relationships and work suffered as I became depressed and withdrawn.
I was fitted with my hearing aids by a brilliant audiologist at the NHS – and I began to slowly get used to wearing them and gradually my brain adjusted to the sounds and tones. I do remember as the first one was switched on – my whole body breathed a sigh of relief. The daily listening effort had taken its toll and now I had help. I was told they would also help distract my brain from the tinnitus. It was the first silver lining.
I continued to sing, both live and in recording projects. But I found it all too stressful sadly. Looking back now I understand that I had become quite noise phobic – and experienced hyperacusis. I recorded my last vocal in 2011. The album however, made it to number 1 in the UK New Age music charts. My swansong, and another silver lining. At least I went out on a high!
I began to explore other outlets of creativity, writing being one of them. And I turned my attention to business and holistic health. It didn’t come so easily at first, I was grieving my old life. However with time and the help of some amazing people, I found my way. The holistic approaches really worked for me, Pilates, meditation, stress reduction practices - encouraging my whole system to be calmer in general, all aiding the ‘habituation’ of the tinnitus and a more positive frame of mind. I continue with these methods to this day.
Ten years on...and in that time I have learned to live with, thrive with, and accept my tinnitus and hearing loss. In many ways, as strange as it may seem, the loss has become a gain. The hidden disability, as it is often called, is also a hidden strength. I’ve learnt so much about myself and grown as a person, and I have now turned my attention to supporting and facilitating others in this process too.
In January 2017 I met Adam Chell, a private audiologist based in Bromley, Kent. I went for a hearing consultation and I took the next step and invested in a high tech pair of Oticon Opn 1 hearing aids which support me further in my new and busy retail business.
Adam and I became friends (silver lining number 3!) and our shared vision of a different world of hearing resulted in Tinnitus Rooms, part of which is a free tinnitus support group in Greenwich, South East London which runs every 2 months. I’ve attended both the British Tinnitus Association’s Tinnitus Advisor Training and Group Facilitator training, funded by the association. My understanding is forever deepening as new research comes to light. I hope to be able to share the new discoveries along the way. Knowledge, after all is power. Empowerment.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story...being asked to contribute to this amazing website is yet another example of a true silver lining.
For information, research updates and all the ways to find help & support please go to www.tinnitus.org.uk - 'You're Not Alone.'
This short story was written by Louise Hatch. It is a true story. Please click this link to find out more about Tinnitus Rooms - Holistic Support for People with Tinnitus.
If you like this article, you might like Tinnitus and the DJ: Suffering in Silence.
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