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"The fact that I couldn’t turn it off really bothered me, it felt like it was in control of me. I had no option but to suffer with it."
In mid-2014, Kilkenny, Ireland resident Mary Curtin began experiencing horrendous tinnitus sounds which she describes as an ‘alarm going off in her head.’
Not only would Mary become one of many people in the Republic of Ireland living with tinnitus, she also became one of the few who also suffered with hyperacusis (a sensitivity to loud noise). Mary, a 69-year-old, counsellor, who had never heard of the words tinnitus or hyperacusis before, went to see her GP after failing to get a decent night’s sleep.
Here the grandmother of two shares her story with us:
"I went to see my GP as I wasn’t sleeping and he suggested I go onto anti-depressants which I did not follow through with. I didn’t want to go down that route."
"Prior to the tinnitus, I had a viral infection which caused an inner ear infection and I think I may have picked it up on the plane after a trip back from London to Ireland. That started the tinnitus and I then lost some hearing in the left ear."
"I was in a very sad place. I wasn’t sleeping and I really thought I was going to go out of my mind if I didn’t get relief from the noise. The fact that I couldn’t turn it off really bothered me, it felt like it was in control of me. I had no option but to suffer with it."
"I was on the computer one night and I was Googling about tinnitus to find some information and that’s when I came across The Tinnitus Clinic website."
Mary contacted the clinic to book an initial assessment and was seen by Senior Audiologist, Mr Rekesh Patel who recommended the Acoustic Neuromodulation therapy. “Mary was very anxious when I first met her and she was finding that the tinnitus was having a very negative impact on the quality of her life”, explained Mr Patel.
"the first thing that I did notice was the fact that the clinic really understood what I was going through and that meant I had somebody I could talk to – that’s what really stuck with me."
"Mr Patel was absolutely brilliant with me, and I felt that he was gentle, kind and understanding, and that brought the anxiety down. I knew I would get help and the neuromodulation therapy really sorted me out very quickly. Unfortunately, I went on to develop hyperacusis."
Mr Patel explains. "Mary and I were both quite happy with the progress she had made with her tinnitus, but unfortunately she developed severe hyperacusis through this process. Tinnitus and hyperacusis are separate conditions, but often arise together. Each of these conditions are treated differently and we started to treat Mary with special combination devices to normalise her sensitivity to sounds."
Whilst many are familiar with tinnitus, hyperacusis is an over-sensitivity of day-to-day noises some people find difficult to tolerate. For example, a group of people talking in a restaurant may be difficult for someone with hyperacusis as they are unable to filter out extraneous noise.
Mary says: "I just couldn’t handle noise; I was very uncomfortable wherever there was loud noise, especially when there was a gathering of people. I found the hyperacusis more painful and more frightening than the tinnitus in a way. Particularly at night when I would go to bed, put my head down on the pillow, that’s when it would be a problem for me."
"It isolated me a bit but I am so proud of how I held onto my job and kept going. I didn’t go down the road of letting go of my life. I thank God that it didn’t happen to me."
Mary booked a review consultation with Mr Patel to have her hyperacusis assessed and was recommended the Hyperacusis Desensitisation Therapy.
Mary says: "I still cannot handle very loud noise however the hearing aids with the implementation to address the hyperacusis were badly needed and I am glad I’ve got those."
"Now I’ve gone back to swimming, not as often as I would like, but I do go swimming more." "I wear the hearing aids in all day long for the hyperacusis and I am not using the Acoustic Neuromodulation device as much, I haven’t used it for quite a while."
"I just want to say a huge big thank you to all of you at The Tinnitus Clinic. I would advise people with tinnitus to go to the people who know what they are dealing with and what they are talking about."
"I would say go to the experts and the people who know what they are doing and the people who have experience in these conditions."
Watch our video to learn about the neurological causes of tonal tinnitus.
An important part of my mission at The Tinnitus Clinic is to share our knowledge of tinnitus; its causes, how to prevent it and what to do if you are suffering from the condition. This blog will go some way in achieving this aim.