Turn the noise up!?….

It is indeed a strange time we live in and the changes made to what used to be accepted as our “daily routine” have for some people had unexpected and unforeseen disadvantages. Where a large portion of the workplace have been furloughed at home some people have instead been sent to a waking nightmare.

Most people with ‘normal hearing’ are constantly bombarded with excess of noise and in a daily battle to suppress it. Whether this be turning the television down- shouting at the kids to turn the music down, stopping the dog barking or any one of a host of other noise generators we live with – it doesn’t ever seem to be quiet enough.  As a parent of three children -I am confident that I can speak from experience here – it’s often nosier at home than in my customers workplaces.

During the first weeks of Lockdown I remember sitting in the garden and suddenly realising that I was hearing the birds singing – and I mean really singing! The more I concentrated the more I could hear sounds I hadn’t fully been aware of before. I could hear the noise from the wind turbines that sit on the hills behind my house and also the incredibly loud hum from the charger of my eco-friendly electric car.

For people who don’t suffer from Tinnitus (myself included) it is difficult to understand the incredible debilitation of the condition. As an audiologist and supplier of specialised hearing protection I have been around sufferers many times throughout the years and although each case is different there is one common theme apparent with most sufferers – Lack of noise is bad!

When a person who suffers with tinnitus is put in a quiet situation then their tinnitus becomes more apparent and the brain latches on to this noise more than normal. This is why the majority of sufferers who present themselves at a clinic will complain that the condition worsens at night. The reality is of course that the condition remains the same but the outside noise that would normally stimulate the senses and thus dull the tinnitus has diminished and so the tinnitus “sounds” louder.  As a treatment the first attempt at a remedy would be to ascertain if the hearing level itself is diminished. If it is, the easy course of action is to supply a hearing device during the day and lift the threshold above the tinnitus sound – easy!  No, because at night when the aid is removed – same old story but now with added insomnia.

I remember many years ago when I was a young sales rep staying away with my boss and finding it incredibly funny, he brought a desk fan with him as he couldn’t sleep if it were too quiet! This in the days before apps on mobile phones and I now realise the days of extremely low-cost rooms.

Just as a parent might run a vacuum cleaner to send a baby to sleep, noise can sometimes help our brains “think” it’s quiet.

So, while you’re sitting at home in the peace and quiet spare a thought for people with tinnitus and what it’s like to live with a constant noise in your head that you can’t control.

As for me, well my wife thinks I have become a constant noise in her head over these last few weeks

Oh, and my electric car has to go!

Tinnitus advice and help can be found at tinnitus.org.uk

Neil McIntosh, CEO Cluistrom;  neil.mcintosh@cluistrom.com