Graphic designer Emma had been living with tinnitus for five or six years before she woke up one morning to find the noise had escalated out of control. This marked the beginning of what Emma terms her ‘quest’ for a cure.
I’d been to the doctor when the ringing first bothered me all those years ago. The onset had been gradual, usually after going to nightclubs, but lasting only a day. But then, after a night out with friends whose car had big speakers, it stayed for three days. And a little while later I went to a big party and the noise was there for good.
It wasn’t loud, but I didn’t want it to get any worse. The doctor said there was nothing he could do about it. He sent me on to an audiologist who told me to avoid loud places and smoky environments, and to use musicians’ earplugs when I went to nightclubs.
Then one morning, three or four years ago, I woke up to a really loud noise: as if someone had hit a tuning fork and held it to my ear. The doctor (a general practitioner) and another audiologist said the same thing: they could do nothing about it. They suggested that stress probably had something to do with it. So I started looking around and speaking to people and began to realize how many people have it.
I found a tinnitus clinic through a friend. They tested me, too, but in the end they told me the same thing again: there was nothing they could do. They did offer a treatment but it wasn’t guaranteed, and I could have counseling, but it was all very expensive and I didn’t feel it would help me.
Another friend’s mother took herbal medicine that she found on the internet and thought it had some effect. It was South African and very expensive; my naturopath said it wouldn’t hurt me. After three or four months, though, I realized it wasn’t achieving anything.
I tried a chiropractor who suggested relaxation and ginkgo biloba. I had noticed it was best when I was relaxed and didn’t have back pain, so I kept all of that up. I also started yoga to calm myself down. But none of it ever had any real effect on the tinnitus itself, which was still getting worse. I was at the end of my rope.
I didn’t enjoy anything. I didn’t leave the house. Because I thought loud noise made it worse, the idea of going into the city with loud noise and people panicked me. I didn’t go to the bar for a drink, I didn’t listen to music, I shut myself off from everything. If I wanted to see people, I would get them to come to my house. I took time off from work because I couldn’t cope anymore; I was sitting at my desk listening to my ears ring all day. I couldn’t work, I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t think. All I could think of was that if this is going to keep getting worse at the same rate, where am I going to be in 12 months time. I was petrified.
It’s now so much better, maybe between 60% to 80% better depending on my stress level at the time. The treatment is the easiest thing I’ve had to do.
One day I saw something about Neuromonics on TV. I called Neuromonics and began the program. It’s now so much better – maybe between 60% to 80% better depending on my stress level at the time. The treatment is the easiest thing I’ve had to do. It’s as easy as listening to your walkman. At first I was a bit apprehensive because I thought it was noise that was aggravating it: I said, “you want me to put this in my ears?” But they explained it all to me and it’s been really much better than taking a pill, or something else that you might forget to do. It’s also therapeutic because the “music” is really nice. It’s relaxing and I often fall asleep to it.
The clinic gives me fabulous back up support. Half of the problem before was that there was no one who understood it, no one to talk to about it, no one who could sympathize with it. I know now there’s someone who will understand what I’m talking about. I call them and tell them what’s going on. They’re wonderful.
Every time I go to the clinic I get another hearing test and a measurement about how loud my ears are ringing; I can see how much better I was than 6 or 12 months ago and I can see progress. Recently, after a stressful period, it got a bit louder again, but when I went back for a follow-up appointment, they could show me that it was only actually a little above what it had been the previous visit.
Now I’m living pretty much a normal life. I still don’t go out to nightclubs and things like that, and I don’t spend too long in noisy bars and restaurants. I get plenty of sleep and I play sports a lot because that seems to help as well. I just lead a healthier lifestyle.
The only time tinnitus bothers me now is when it’s really quiet – first thing in the morning, last thing at night. The country is pretty quiet so I’m glad I’ve discovered I’m a city girl! I know I’ll have to keep up all the lifestyle things and managing stress is a major factor. I’d like to think that eventually I won’t be able to hear it (tinnitus) all, but I don’t know if I’m capable of doing that – I’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime though, I’d recommend the Neuromonics treatment to anybody.