I first heard the humming as I lay in bed one night at university. I assumed my flatmate had a new laptop or the noise was coming from outside. It was strange, yes, but I was sure the noise would be gone by the morning. I forgot about it and went to sleep with no problem. The next day I went home for the weekend. That night I could hear the same noise, only much louder. That was when I realised the humming was coming from me.
I was diagnosed with tinnitus when I saw my GP a few days later. There was no apparent cause for the noise I was hearing so I was referred to an ENT specialist. The specialist told me there is no cure for tinnitus and sent me for an MRI scan. That evening I cried and cried. I didn't understand why it was happening to me. I kept asking myself - what have I done to deserve this?
In the first few weeks I experienced all kinds of noises. I heard humming, sirens, ringing, crickets, loud thumps and ear popping. It was a nightmare. I desperately avoided quiet rooms and I had to download an app of 'natural sounds' to help me sleep at night.
A few weeks later, my MRI scan results came back. No abnormalities were found and the consultant diagnosed me with a viral nerve infection. I was told I would be stuck with tinnitus for life and there was nothing I could do about it. This was extremely upsetting to hear but even more so because the consultant didn't seem to care. I felt like I was a nuisance to him and I was rushed out of the room with no advice on how to deal with it. I remember feeling very lonely and depressed. I felt like I was the only person in the world with tinnitus.
Three months in and my tinnitus seems to have settled at a constant, faint ringing. While it is annoying, I have learnt to cope with it. I consider myself extremely lucky that it is only in quiet situations that I hear it. For others, tinnitus can be like hearing a helicopter take off in your head.
Finding the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) has really helped me. It's reassuring to know that you are not alone and it's encouraging to hear from people who are so positive about coping with tinnitus. With the help of the BTA I no longer get upset about the noises I hear. I wouldn't have believed this was possible two months ago. I thoroughly recommend the BTA to anyone who experiences tinnitus and hope that with the research they do we will one day find effective treatment, maybe even a cure, for this horrible condition.
Vanessa's story was kindly provided by the British Tinnitus Association, to help raise awareness of Tinnitus Awareness Week.