Leominster tinnitus sufferer forced into redundancy

Published: Thu May 15 2008

Owen Shallcross from Leominster in Herefordshire has endured seven years of a frustrating and seemingly incurable ear condition. After a serious accident in July 2001 during which he was unconscious for several hours, tinnitus began to ring in Owen’s left ear. "The main factor seems to be the bad head injury that I suffered," says Owen. "Specialists say that the accident possibly compounded an acoustic neuroma, so my brain became confused and gave out the impression of white noise in my ears." Soon, both of Owen’s ears were affected by tinnitus and he says that its effects have grown harsher and louder since mid-2002.

Owen finds it difficult to follow conversations at times, due to the incessant buzzing in his ears. "It is at least as loud as a person’s speech, and often louder," he says. "It has become particularly bad over the last five years. Sometimes it sounds like screeching."

As many other sufferers will be aware, tinnitus can affect every area of your life, and Owen is no different. As well as affecting his ability to listen and communicate effectively, he has been forced to retire through redundancy. "I’m just not fit to work anymore," Owen says. "Unfortunately I suffer other illnesses including ME and chronic fatigue syndrome, MRSA, anxiety and depression; tinnitus was just the final straw so I’ve been forced into retirement." Owen struggles to get enough sleep due to tinnitus, which is at odds with his ME or CFS. "It’s like mental torture. It’s very difficult to sleep and I have to take sleeping pills every night for it," Owen adds.

Owen relies upon his faith to get him through the difficulties of tinnitus and does not know how he would deal with it otherwise. He agrees that more research needs to be undertaken to successfully treat tinnitus, and that few organisations exist to help him in his fight for a normal life.

Deafness Research UK is the country's only charity dedicated to finding new cures, treatments and technologies for the deaf, hard of hearing and other hearing impaired people including tinnitus sufferers. Vivienne Michael, Chief Executive of Deafness Research UK, said: "Over six million people in the UK are affected by tinnitus and it can have a devastating effect on their quality of life. Not enough is known about this very complex condition and we are determined to do something about it. We are committed to funding leading edge research and providing practical information to health professionals for the benefit of sufferers."

Deafness Research UK has produced a useful guide called ‘Managing Tinnitus’. To receive a copy telephone 0808 808 2222 or email info@deafnessresearch.org.uk. For information on research into deafness and other hearing conditions, log on to the website, www.deafnessresearch.org.uk
About tinnitus
Tinnitus describes the noises that some people hear 'in their ears' or 'in their head'. These noises can take many forms, with descriptions ranging from whistling, humming, and tissue paper rustling to kettles boiling. Some people hear their noises as tunes and melodies. The common factor with all these sounds is that they do not originate from an external source. Tinnitus is not a disease, but a symptom - like an ache in one of your joints or itching for no reason. Nearly all the causes are benign and in many cases tinnitus is a natural part of the ageing process. But, as decibel levels in today's environment rise, tinnitus is affecting increasingly younger people.
Noise is not the only cause of tinnitus, though can be a contributing or factor. Though more research needs to be carried out about the causes of tinnitus, medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and Basilar Artery Migraine are linked. A conservative estimate is that over six million people in the UK are affected by tinnitus. For over 3 million people - it has a significant effect on their quality of life and can be described as ‘moderately or severely annoying’.

For around 300,000 of these people it severely affects their ability to lead a normal life, and can be incredibly debilitating – leading to sleep deprivation and a total loss of any normal social life.

About Deafness Research UK
• Deafness Research UK is the country’s only charity dedicated to finding new cures, treatments and technologies for deaf, hard of hearing and other hearing impaired people.
• The charity supports high quality medical research into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of all forms of hearing impairment including tinnitus.
• The Deafness Research UK Information Service provides free information and advice based on the latest scientific evidence and informed by leading experts. The Information Service can be contacted on Freephone 0808 808 2222
• Deafness Research UK was founded in 1985 by Lord and Lady Ashley of Stoke.
• For more information on research into deafness, tinnitus and other hearing conditions, log on to the website at www.deafnessresearch.org.uk where you can access a wide range of information. Alternatively you can e-mail Deafness Research UK at info@deafnessresearch.org.uk
• One in seven people in the UK – almost nine million people - suffer hearing loss.

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Ref: DRUK0070 – Owen Shallcross
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