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When the quiet life becomes impossible; Musicians including Chris Martin have been affected by tinnitus - and for those who live with it, it's so much more than just a ringing in the ears.

" I couldn't hear the birds, the alarm clock, nothing. The tinnitus kicked in."

Tom Kane has been suffering with tinnitus for nearly 20 years.

It's a condition that affects one in five people in the UK, with 21 per cent of adults suffering from ringing in the ears, a persistent buzzing sound or some other form of intrusive noise that seems to come from everywhere and nowhere all at once.

The British Tinnitus Association just last month increased its estimate of how many people suffer from tinnitus from one in 10 people to one in eight.

There have, maybe understandably, been some high profile musicians who complain of tinnitus - including Chris Martin of Coldplay, The Who's Pete Townshend and Bob Dylan.

"Looking after your ears is unfortunately something you don't think about until there's a problem," said Martin.

For Tom it came on very suddenly. "I lost 30 per cent of my hearing in 2000 overnight. I woke up and I couldn't hear the missus talk," says the 61-year-old from Telford.

Tom had worked for 30 years as a computer technician on navigation systems in the RAF on Lightning aircraft, and while he says he always wore ear defenders he believes some of the loud noises contributed to his problems.

"What's gradually happened is I'm getting age related hearing loss and it has declined quite rapidly over the last five years," he says.

"I'm not this, but a solution whisky" "As my hearing has decreased my tinnitus has become more intrusive." Tom lives with a hearing dog called Harley and explained that while his hearing is decreasing he also has three tones of tinnitus "I have a 'shush' sound, which I've had 24/7 since 2000. It's always in the background," he adds. "I have a constant beep. I also hear a murmuring, it's like being in a doctor's waiting room, you don't hear words, but it's like a low murmur, and that comes generally when I'm tired."

Tom believes his tinnitus gets worse when he is stressed, and if he goes to bed with stress at night he says he won't sleep and then that becomes self perpetuating.

But this has led to a battle with alcoholism. "I'm not proud of this, but I've found a solution in drinking whisky at night," he said. "I pour a whisky, but I don't just have one.

"It's not a good idea, but my whole body calms down. I've tried everything. I used to run and that used to work, but I can't do that as my back is injured. I'm drinking two litres a week, that's 80 units and twice the national guidelines. It's all been brought on by stress and tinnitus.

"When I first got my tinnitus I would read about people jumping off bridges and things because of tinnitus and now I understand why."

Tom only has about 20 per cent of his hearing left and says that as he loses more hearing, the tinnitus gets worse.

"I find the tinnitus now more intrusive in my life now than my deafness. When I first became deaf I was like 'how am I going to manage?'. But I can manage that now. I've never had those thoughts, I have too much to live for."

After leaving the RAF Tom has trained as a lip reader and is now a lip reading teacher. He also gives talks on deafness and tinnitus around the county.

proud of I found "There's no cure but they'll keep looking for it," he says.

in Steven Hale is a registered audiologist who specialises in adult hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation across the West Midlands.

"The thing about tinnitus is there are no warning signs as such," he says. "A lot of the time it will come on slowly and then gradually gets worse, but more commonly something happens which triggers it and it really can be life changing for people."

Steven says that because tinnitus is an internal sound to people, things such as modern hearing aids can help if the cause of a worsening is linked to a loss of hearing.

"The ear's primary function is to hear and if it can't hear outside the body it hears inside the body. Using a hearing aid can help bring more sound in from outside and lessen the internal sound," he adds. "There are two types of tinnitus patients. There are those that have had it long term, they are used to it and deal with it. The other kind are those that want to be in that group and can find it very distressing and distracting.

"It's different person to person but it can be very debilitating and it can bring on stress."

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Publication:Express and Star (Wolverhampton, England)
Date:May 20, 2019
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