How I got Tinnitus in my twenties and how I live with it today

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I guess you could say I used to be your typical twenty-something woman. I worked hard, and I played hard too. Just because I worked a 9-5 job managing a business didn’t mean I wasn’t willing to let loose. I made sure I attended every major music festival Australia had to offer. Homebake, Parklife, V Festival, Big Day Out, Splendor in the Grass, you name it! Then there were the weekends spent in the coolest pubs in Melbourne – sampling craft beer, singing karaoke and just having fun…

These days, I still enjoy all these things – but after a recent wake-up call, I am enjoying all of them much more responsibly!

It all started with a little ringing in my ears – sometimes sounding like a ringing or light buzzing. At first, I brushed it off, and after discussing it with my friends all agreed that this was normal. A little ‘feedback’ in your ears now and again was nothing to worry about and we were all far too young to be experiencing hearing problems. But over time the ringing got worse – especially at night, lying in bed in silence. My GP referred me to Ivory Hearing in Melbourne to see an Audiologist and take a comprehensive hearing evaluation. The results told me that I had tinnitus. I could not have been more shocked.

According to the Better Health Channel, up to 20 % of Australians suffer from mild to severe tinnitus. The Audiologist patiently explained to me that my shock was normal, as most people my age did not know that they could experience tinnitus symptoms in their 20s. It’s a damaging misconception that allows young people to abuse their hearing through prolonged exposure to very loud sounds. Tinnitus is a kind of sensorineural hearing loss, meaning that it’s caused by problems at the cochlear level.

The Audiologist explained to me that while developing tinnitus at a young age is less common, it still does happen, and in most cases there is no single identifiable cause – although it is sometimes caused by tumours, age, Ménière’s disease, otosclerosis or TMJ disorders. The reason that it seemed louder at night was because there was less ambient noise around me to distract me from the sound.

“So what’s the solution for a person in their 20s suffering from Tinnitus?” I asked. The audiologist cautioned me against seeking a quick fix, telling me that there is no cure for it, but that it could be managed. After several consultations we decided on fitting a Unitron hearing aid, which comes equipped with Tinnitus Managing Technology that’s been known to work wonders. It amplified the noises around me, making them much clearer and the tinnitus less noticeable.

It took a bit of getting used to: wearing an in-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid, which is something I associate with old people. It was also embarrassing when people noticed, but I soon got over it. Most of the time, people aren’t aware that you can damage your ears painlessly and while you are still young. I use the opportunity to educate those around me on the dangers of abusing your hearing and leaving hearing problems untreated.

These days, my life has not changed that much. Most of the time my tinnitus is barely noticeable, and I do my best not to exacerbate it. I still go to concerts – I just make sure I stand far from the speakers and never go anywhere without my protective ear plugs and ear muffs. I also make sure to schedule regular visits to Ivory Hearing for check-ups, battery replacements and anything else I might need.

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