TIM LYE has one message for his tinnitus — on your bike.
The 41-year-old, who has mild tinnitus in one ear and severe in the other, found his life altered by the condition, but is now learning to live with it thanks to finding a passion for cycling.
Tim, from Derby, has had mild tinnitus in his right ear since he was at university, something he put down to over-exuberant student years, clubbing and spending time in loud, noisy places.
He coped with the ringing in his ear for many years until 2007, when it suddenly got worse.
Tim explains: “I was working in Singapore at the time and woke up following a night out and the noise in my ears was suddenly louder, it was very notable and really annoying.
“I thought it would ease off as the day went on but it didn’t.
“It started to affect the way I was at work and at home. It made concentration and sleep very difficult.
“When I returned to the UK to live, I saw a specialist who said that my hearing level had dropped and sent me for an MRI scan.
“This identified a tumour in my ear canal called an acoustic neuroma.
“I had surgery to remove the tumour and lost all hearing on my right side, while a clipped nerve left me with facial paralysis.
“The loss of hearing affected my balance and walking — something I’d done with no problem for decades became difficult.
“It took 11 months for me to be able to return to work and thankfully my employers, a large manufacturing company, were very understanding and helped with reduced hours until I was able to work full-time again.
“But six months after the operation my tinnitus became very real,” reveals Tim.
“Having lived with mild tinnitus for so many years, I saw it as an irritant and inconvenience, but what I experienced next was horrendous.
“As the noise was in my deaf ear, I couldn’t hear anyone speak or sing into it to help mask the sound.
“All I could hear was a constant, high-pitched sound, it was awful,” says Tim.
“I felt like I was going to explode and every day became a struggle.
“Work, life, everything became too much and after two years of this, I was ready to quit work, a job I loved.
“Thankfully, my employers found me a different position within the company and I was able to work with reduced stress and pressure.
“I guess I sat and wallowed for a few years,” Tim admits.
“I was a youngish man with lots to look forward to and this came along and really turned my life upside down.
“It was the tinnitus that made me think that I couldn’t do my job any longer.
“But thanks to help from the British Tinnitus Association, and getting a new high-frequency hearing aid and discovering a love of cycling, I feel like I’ve turned a real corner.
“I’ve changed the way I socialise,” says Tim.
“I choose not to go to busy places to meet friends — I just don’t enjoy it — but I’ve got good friends and we meet in quieter places where we can hear each other talk.
“The cycling has helped to improve my balance and the noise of the wind in my good ear is quite soothing.
“Don’t get me wrong, I still have some bad days as the tinnitus is always there, and I’m always conscious of it, but I have learned lots of distraction techniques.
“I try to ignore it, which at first was easier said than done, but does actually work.
“I did a cycle ride in 2012 to raise money for the BTA because this is a cause which is close to my heart.
“There is currently no cure, but there is help.
“Ignorance of this condition can be quite distressing.
“I posted something about my cycle ride on Facebook to help with raising awareness and a friend of a friend commented: ‘Tinnitus, now that rings a bell,’ thinking they were being funny.
“It’s not something to be sniggered at or mocked — it can be quite debilitating.
“But a few years ago, I was at my wits’ end and now I can see a bright future ahead as I saddle up and take on my cycling challenges.”
For more information visit the British Tinnitus Association’s website www.tinnitus.org.uk
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