The day after my car accident I started to hear a constant noise in my ears, particularly my right ear. This is know as tinnitus. For me the sound never stops, but it can change its intensity. When it does, I have an immediate reaction. Another symptom has also grown over the years and this is an intolerance to sound, any sound, so I have had to take some proactive steps to help me control my reaction. These are the strategies I use:

1 – Explain

This is an unusual problem and most people are totally unaware how their brains manage to control sound. The brain has a way of filtering out all the noise you are not interested in. This is why people can have a conversation of a street with lots of people milling around, and cars driving by. My brain doesn’t do this anymore, so I have to explain to people I have this problem.

This is particularly important at meetings, where people have a tendency to talk over each other, or have whispered conversations. My ears hear all these noises at the same volume, it is a tsunami of sound and it becomes overwhelming. So before a meeting starts, or if there is an issue, I will explain my problem, and what can be done to solve this.

In COVID world, with online video meetings this isn’t such an issue, as the software doesn’t allow this to happen. It makes life much easier for me, but when normality returns, I will have to start explaining again.

2 – Control my environment

When I am at home, or in the car, I need it to be quiet. But a home has noises, radio, TV, vacuum cleaners, and appliances all make noise. This can be very difficult for me, so I have some spaces in the house which are silent zones. My cave/office is one such place. It is built into the ground so it is very hard for noises from the road to enter. It is a haven.

This is much harder to do out in the world, if I want to go shopping, or even to travel. Buses, airplanes and airports are so difficult. I cannot change the environment, so I have other tools to help.

3 – Noise Cancelling Headphones

These have been a life saver. I have two pairs, some bigger headphones, (Sony WH-1000X M3) which are great for really noise environments. They have the double whammy of sound suppression, active noise cancelling and they cover my ear. I use the on airplanes, buses and in places where I expect lots of sound. They help. They are also great when seeing a movie in a cinema, as the sound is usually very loud. I just pop these on, engage noise cancelling, and I can enjoy the movie, with a big box of popcorn and a fizzy drink.

The second pair are the Apple AirPods Pro. These fit easily in my pocket, and if the sound starts to increase I can take them out and they will immediately improve the situation. If I didn’t have these I would have much more pain, and my mood would become explosive. All this noise triggers a beast in me, and as I know it can happen, I do my best to control my mood.

4 – Headphone connected to the TV

This is a follow on from strategy 2 & 3. When the TV is on, the sound seems to bounce all over the room, creating a situation where the sound arrives to my ear from two or more different places, creating the effect of a crowded place. To handle this I would alway have the subtitles on as I was not able to understand what the characters were saying on the TV, especially difficult if they don’t speak clearly.

To resolve this I bought a Bluetooth transmitter with very low latency (this helps the sound to match the lips when they speak) and a matching pair of headphones. These have been a Godsend, as I can now enjoy watching the TV again. One issue I have with these is if someone asks me a question during the program I cannot hear them, so I need to remove the headphones, and turn off the sound on the TV. This is more of an inconvenience, than a problem.

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