Tinnitus forces London choral singer to give up music

Published: Wed May 28 2008

Allison Mason of Palmers Green in London began singing in a choir when she was eight years old. Thirty years later, she had to give up choral singing, her passion and joy in life, because of tinnitus - noises in the head or ears that cannot be heard externally. Now 41, Allison can only hope research will one day identify a way to eradicate tinnitus and ease the agony of millions of sufferers.

She endured a series of ear infections around five years ago, during which time tinnitus became a constant unwelcome companion. After many courses of antibiotics and visits to the ENT hospital in London, her infections were finally flushed out. But the tinnitus remained. Whilst they treated the infections successfully, they didnít suggest much to help the tinnitus. "So I turned to the internet to learn what I could about tinnitus. What I found out is that although research is ongoing, the treatments on offer today arenít very effective. And there is currently no cure," says Allison.

Her main symptoms are static noises in her left ear and a ringing in her right ear. "I work for a law firm and a stressful day can make the tinnitus sounds worse, as can tiredness and illness," she says. "At the end of the day when youíre exhausted and all you want to do is go to sleep, thatís when itís the worst. The only thing that works for me is having the radio or TV on in the background, with some talk programme. I use the technique most nights by setting the timer on for about an hour so that it switches off once Iím asleep," Allison explains.

Having to give up singing is what saddens her the most. "Music has been such a part of my life for so long. I play the flute and the piano as well. But choral singing just became too difficult and stressful with tinnitus. I still listen to music, but I have to be careful. A crescendo can hurt my ears, and I do get a bit apprehensive when I listen to a piece of music for the first time."

Although tinnitus has affected her social life, Allison hasnít given up on it yet. Itís a difficult experience going to a bar," she says, "but I have learnt ways to cope like not getting too close to loud speakers." Sheís lucky to have an understanding husband who has even quit the choir as a gesture of sympathy and has been a huge support in helping her deal with the distressing symptoms.

"There is not enough research being done. I suppose itís low priority because people are almost embarrassed to admit that they hear noises in their heads. But itís not an old peopleís disorder. There are so many young sufferers of tinnitus. Something has to be done to cure it!" Allison implores.

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," she added.

ĎDeafness Research UK has produced a useful guide called ĎManaging Tinnitusí. 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

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Ref: DRUK0050 - Allison Mason
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