Hitchin man speaks about his battle with tinnitus which almost drove him to suicide

Audiologist Jane Shorrock and Malcolm Johnston

Audiologist Jane Shorrock and Malcolm Johnston - Credit: Archant

A man has spoken about an extreme case of tinnitus which almost drove him to suicide as part of a national awareness week.

Malcolm Johnston has decided to tell his story to mark Tinnitus Awareness Week 2014, which runs until Sunday.

The 68-year-old from Hitchin has been battling the condition – which causes him to hear a ringing or buzzing in his ears when there is no outside sound – for the past 12 years.

Malcolm’s tinnitus started as a whistling sound in both ears but it became so debilitating that he was unable to sleep.

After seeing various specialists and trying numerous types of hearing aids, Malcolm became severely depressed to the point where he considered taking his own life.

Following a routine eye appointment at Specsavers Hitchin, he decided to book an appointment at the store’s hearing centre to see there was any solution and was assessed by audiologist Jane Shorrock.

Malcolm said: “Just before I decided to see Jane at Specsavers I had seriously considered committing suicide. Those who suffer from tinnitus will know just how much of an impact it can have on your life. I seemed to go through a mountain of appointments with various specialists, none of whom were able to help me.

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“My form of tinnitus is actually called aggressive tinnitus, which means that no matter how loud the environmental noise is around me, the whistling in my head would get louder to drown it out. This meant I couldn’t go out and socialise, I couldn’t even sleep at night. There really was nothing I could do to give myself any relief.”

Jane Shorrock, hearing aid audiologist at Specsavers hearing centre Hitchin, said Malcolm’s case of tinnitus was the worst she has encountered during her seven years as an audiologist.

After a examination to determine how such a severe case of the condition could be helped, Jane fitted Malcolm with specially adapted ‘open’ hearing aids, which do not plug into the ears, but leave the ear canal open.

Jane said: “The worst thing you can do for a tinnitus sufferer is plug their ears, this simply maximises the noise within their head. Open aids leave the ear canal clear while amplifying environmental noise to drown out the tinnitus safely. Malcolm had previously worked in a factory next to noisy machinery without any hearing protection, which could well have been a contributing factor to his tinnitus. If you aren’t careful about protecting your hearing against noise induced damage, tinnitus is a real danger.”

Malcolm added: “My story is just one example of thousands – 10% of the UK’s adult population suffer from tinnitus and it is a condition I think needs greater public awareness. My tinnitus put me through hell, and I will be eternally grateful to Jane and Specsavers hearing centre in Hitchin for allowing me to live my life again.”

For more information on tinnitus or to book a free hearing test at Specsavers Hitchin call 01462 422255 or visit the store at 27 High Street, Hitchin.