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Help is there for Tinnitus sufferers

Living with persistent tinnitus is a reality for about one in eight adults in the UK, but being able to talk to others about the condition can make a huge difference to sufferers.

This week the Herald spoke to John Carnie, 70, from Stratford about tinnitus and the help he has received from the Birmingham and District Tinnitus Group.

Although the pandemic has forced face-to-face meetings to stop, like many other organisations the group has embraced technology to run its sessions remotely.

John said: “When I was young I developed mumps and measles and it was one of those conditions that left me deaf in my left ear, my right ear was good though and you learn to adapt.

“Then about 20 years ago I started to notice that my good ear was deteriorating and at the same time I was starting to develop tinnitus. It was just there quite dim in the background at first, but it got louder over a couple of years to the point where it was quite intrusive.

“People with tinnitus can experience a variety of different noises, in my case it is a high frequency buzzing sound. I remember going around the house checking everything was off, checking the fridge wasn’t buzzing, I didn’t realise this noise was coming from within me.

“I worked as a customs consultant and it became hard to concentrate when I was writing reports and that kind of thing. Tinnitus is affected by stress, I was in a bit of a vicious circle, worrying about tinnitus affecting my work, which in turn made my tinnitus feel worse.

“There are different types of tinnitus, there are those that suffer because of hearing constant loud noises, such as those who worked in the Birmingham metalwork factories and there are those people like me who develop it because their hearing is deteriorating with age.

“I searched the internet and found there was a group in Birmingham called the Birmingham and District Tinnitus Group, which held support meetings. When I went along I realised that I was not the only one living with it and speaking to others who were coping with it made a big difference, I know that it’s not going to kill me, it’s just a really annoying noise.

“The advice I would give to anyone worried about tinnitus is that it is not going to kill you, it’s irritating but stress can exacerbate it. The best thing is to occupy yourself, listen to music, take up a hobby, find something that will distract you, something you enjoy, and when you do that the noise just fades into the background really.

“The group really helped me and I would encourage others if they need help to visit the website and come along to one of our video support sessions.”

John added that the British Tinnitus Association, with which the Birmingham group is associated, is also a great support to sufferers and encouraged those seeking further information about the condition to visit its website.

The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) is the only national charity dedicated to supporting people with tinnitus and has seen a four-fold increase in people accessing support over the past two years.

Through specific project funding, the charity has been able to expand its Tinnitus Support Team: recruiting new staff and volunteers, and launching a popular new web chat facility and subsequent text/SMS service in order to reach a wider audience and those with hearing impairments.

Colette Bunker, the BTA’s Acting Head of Services, said: “Tinnitus can have a really negative impact on people’s lives and talking to someone when you are feeling distressed, can make you feel less alone. We are really pleased that with our larger team and new support methods we have been able to be there for so many more people who need our help.”

For more information about the British Tinnitus Association, visit www.tinnitus.org.uk or for details about attending a meeting of the Birmingham and District Tinnitus Group via Zoom visit https://tinnitusbham.org.uk/

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