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Living Happily with Tinnitus – Robin’s Success Story

1. Hi Robin, tell us a bit about your condition. How long have you had tinnitus? What symptoms have you been getting? Is the sound you hear there all the time, or is it intermittent?

I developed tinnitus some 30 years ago. In my right ear, I have a permanent high ringing sound; it is always there. In the last few years, I have developed a permanent low drone in my left ear, but it's mainly noticeable at night or when there is silence.

2. How did you actually develop tinnitus in the first place? Has anything in particular triggered it? Can you tell (or guess) what the underlying cause is?

I remember the morning I awoke with a middle ear infection, and the pain was severe enough for me to go to the local hospital, where I was given antibiotics. The tinnitus started there and then. As for the 'new' drone in my other ear, my otolaryngologist said it is probably an age-related development.

3. How did it used to affect your day-to-day life when it started? What impact has it had on you in the past

I went through some difficult times, and at one stage wondered how I would be able to cope with this unrelenting and unforgiving noise for the rest of my life. It made me anxious at times.

4. Have you had somebody to diagnose it? Have you been to see a GP, audiologist, or any traditional health care providers about it? What treatment did they offer?

My GP and otolaryngologist concurred that tinnitus is a problem, but offered nothing in the way of treatment as they have none to offer.

5. Have you tried any alternative treatments, dietary/lifestyle changes, or treatments not offered by traditional health care providers? Have you had any success with of them?

I have researched various ideas and tried a few dietary changes, but have found nothing that actually alleviates the tinnitus.

6. Have you sought counseling or therapy? In particular, have you looked into sound therapy, tinnitus retraining therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy? Did any of them help?

My otolaryngologist suggested a hypnotherapist in Wellington but sad to say, it was a complete waste of time and only served to lighten my wallet.

7. How did you eventually start to cope with it? Do you manage it better now than when it first started? What impact does tinnitus have on you today?

I found some ways to make my tinnitus just a minor distraction. I would like to share them with you. Firstly I am not a tinnitus sufferer, I just have tinnitus. That's the biggest step I made; a shift in my perception.

Pain has been described as being comprised of two darts. The first dart is the pain itself, and the second dart is suffering from the pain, which doubles the misery. I don't identify with the tinnitus. It's not mine, it's just there.

This philosophy is an aspect of the Buddhist philosophy of Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present moment. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad, and just let them pass by.

You don't need to be a Buddhist to put mindfulness into practice. The philosophy of Mindfulness has helped me live with tinnitus to a degree I would not have thought possible. I am delighted and grateful to have found it.

Luckily I love music, and play it regularly. This is an excellent distraction during the day.

8. These days, what do you do to manage your tinnitus? What do you do when it gets particularly bad?

The most challenging time for me as at night. I manage my tinnitus with natural sounds. I find I get good sleep with the use of a machine I bought online from Connevans in England a number of years ago. It is a Sound Oasis machine and replicates the sounds of nature. It is portable enough to carry when I travel.

I also have an ipod, and there are some wonderful sounds of nature apps available for download, and can be played back through headphones, or – better still – through bluetooth speakers.

The best app for quality and variety of sound is without question Naturespace. Two freebies with good sounds are Simply Rain and White Noise. I am sure there are apps available for other portable devices as well.

9. Do you believe there's a single “silver bullet” cure for tinnitus? Do you believe there will ever be one?

I'm not holding my breath!