Michael* had always been cautious about his hearing. As a hunter he was aware of the dangers of hearing loss and took more precautions than most to protect himself. But an accident no-one could have anticipated led to the onset of tinnitus and a desperate search for relief.
I have always loved the outdoors and hunting is a great passion of mine. But I am also aware of the risks involved with this sport. I’m a lot more conservative about safety than many of my friends, and 10 years ago I even had electronic ear defenders made to protect my hearing.
One recent April day, I was out deer shooting with friends. This is considered fairly low-risk so I wasn’t wearing ear protection. But then the unexpected happened – someone fired a shot from behind me. I got the full force of the muzzle blast. It was a nasty incident and I knew right away my hearing had been damaged.
I immediately had ringing in my ear and over the next couple of weeks I realized it wasn’t going away. I know the experience of tinnitus is different for everyone, but for me the constant background noise was accompanied by variations such as a series of clicking sounds. I found this very, very distressing.
I thought about my mother who is blind. When she lies in bed at night in the dark with her eyes closed, she has respite from her blindness. If you have a sore back, you can take a pain killer and have some short-term relief. A broken arm will heal. My tinnitus never went away.
It struck me at the time that tinnitus is a very unusual thing and difficult for those around you to understand. It is invisible to other people and it’s not directly life-threatening but it was still very upsetting and became a huge distraction in my life. The condition began to impair my ability to concentrate and focus. I hate to think of the amount of time I spent in the months following the accident thinking about it: how to resolve it; how to remedy it; how to deal with it in any way, shape or form!
I had a vague awareness that tinnitus wasn’t recognized as being treatable but I sought what advice I could. Unfortunately, my GP (general practitioner physician) also believed this. He was quite dismissive in terms of trying to find any remedy.
I was determined to find some relief and began my own quest for information. Initially I tried acupuncture and herbal remedies. I approached these treatments with a great deal of skepticism and no real expectations. I quickly found out they brought no relief.
Then I jumped on the internet, and as soon as I started to explore the topic of tinnitus, Neuromonics popped up. Based on their website, it had a lot more going for it than some of the other things I had seen. I actually sought out the scientific papers and read those. I’m familiar with reviewing research and I could see it was based on more science than some of the other promoted remedies.
I contacted Neuromonics and went for an initial consultation. They decided I was a good candidate and so we began the treatment.
It’s difficult to gauge exactly when the change took place, but looking at my responses to the questionnaires filled in while I was undertaking the treatment I can see that gradually, over a period of several months, there was a clear improvement.
The easy nature of the treatment meant I found it easy to be diligent about persisting with the minimum recommendation of listening to music through the processor for two hours per day. In fact I’d quite often do it for three or four.
It’s now nine months later, and while my basic treatment has officially ended, I still listen to the processor pretty much two hours at certain times of the day.
The other aspect of the treatment I found important was the counseling. It helped me cope because I developed a better understanding about what was happening with the tinnitus and what to expect in the future. This helped to reduce my distress.
My expectations of the treatment were realistic because I had done so much research. I knew there would be no miracle cure or short-term relief. That’s just as well because I didn’t get it. But by the end of six months, my tinnitus was certainly at a level I could live with.
I also learned during the treatment process that I wasn’t alone. To begin with, it was very isolating, but in making a connection with Neuromonics, I found there were a lot of people affected by it. It was also reassuring to know there were many people working to find a treatment and that some progress has been made. I suppose it’s an example of how people can put up with all sorts of things if they don’t feel they are suffering in isolation.
The tinnitus is still with me today and still bothers me, but it doesn’t distress me to the same degree. I don’t ever expect it will go away, but I’ve learned to live with it at a level where it doesn’t directly interfere with my life. It’s an irritant in the way that any manner of chronic conditions might frustrate people. You have it, but you can put up with it. This is a huge change to the condition that just nine months ago was beginning to consume my life.
*Name has been changed