Audrey Carlin is 78 years old and lives in the North of England. She is one of the founding members of the Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Tinnitus Support Group. She has been active in this group since 1986 and has won an award for her volunteering.
Audrey worked for the National Coal Board until 1974 when she left to start her family. Thereafter, she co-ran the local Playgroup for 5 years and set up and ran a Girls’ Craft Group as an after-school project for 9 years.
Her career resumed in 1986 working for a company that had set up 18 months earlier. Audrey did the accounts, which by then were computerised, the payroll and a range of other jobs including honing her Pitman’s shorthand skills learned at college. She worked there for 9 years before moving on to another company in its infancy to work as Company Secretary, covering a myriad of tasks including accounts, payroll, health and safety, quality control, human resources, and again full use of her shorthand skills.
She worked there for 13 years until her retirement in 2008. This was her most challenging but enjoyable job since her days at the NCB in the 1960s.
On retirement, Audrey became a volunteer for the charity her daughter runs, and also the Co-ordinator of the tinnitus support group in 2006. She continued there until 2020 when the pandemic started and now does her voluntary work from home. She is still as busy as ever!
A few years ago, we invited a Buddha to run a Mindfulness Workshop with our group, Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Tinnitus Support Group and he suggested writing a letter to our tinnitus. This, for me, was many years after my own tinnitus had started.
When my tinnitus appeared, my life was happy and contented. I had two young children and they were at the local junior school. On the day it started, I had been at the children’s school sports day and after this we went along to a friend’s house for tea. In the evening, after they had gone to bed, I went to another friend’s house to label up some tins for a stall we were doing to raise funds for a Girls’ Craft Group that I was running for children aged 7 to 11.
Quite a normal day for me! At the time there didn’t seem to be any logical reason why I had developed tinnitus – I had no hearing loss and as far as I was concerned, I wasn’t stressed or anxious.
So why did I get tinnitus? Below is the letter I wrote to my tinnitus which helped to consolidate my thoughts and feelings.
To my Tinnitus,
We have lived together now for almost 38 years, since 17th July 1984 – yes, I even remember the day when you first entered my life and decided to stay. You had made a couple of brief attempts to visit me previously, usually in the middle of the night, but on those occasions you didn’t stay. However, I must have eventually created the right environment for you to stay indefinitely.
You distressed me at first as I found you completely overwhelming, manipulative and demanding – demanding my attention and taking control of my thoughts, feelings and lifestyle!
I chased around trying to find a way of getting rid of you but in doing so, I was, in fact, sustaining your presence.
Why would I want to pay so much attention to something I didn’t want to hear?
You weren’t doing me any physical harm but my reaction to your arrival in my life was reinforcing your domination of me. What’s the point in fighting you when that will only give you a firmer hold?
I needed to change! I had to alter the way I was thinking about you and learn acceptance. It didn’t happen overnight, but gradually I stopped fighting you and learnt to live with you. I made peace with you.
Looking back, if I could change things in my life, I wouldn’t change my encounter with you as I have learnt a lot about myself, my emotions and how I deal with situations that arise which have helped me to manage the rollercoaster of life. Without you, I wouldn’t have met so many lovely people, some of whom have become close friends.
You made me realise that every single day of my life is for living and enjoying, despite the obstacles along the way.
Coping With Tinnitus
Over the years I have used many techniques to help manage my tinnitus and most of these are creative in one form or another. I found listening to music really powerful and I played songs that made me feel good which in turn made my tinnitus recede into the background.
I embraced nature, and although I didn’t realise it at the time, I became mindful in every aspect of my life, by engaging with my senses – sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing – which opened up a world of interest to me rather than listening to my tinnitus, my negative thoughts and fears.
I had always been creative and enjoyed poetry, having written poems from a young age, but with a family, I didn’t have the time to engage with these activities. However, I knew how important it was to write down thoughts and feelings; just the simple process of writing something down can help to clear your mind. It is cathartic and so I became engrossed in this creative process which resulted, once again, in my tinnitus receding into the background.
Being mindful of everything around me was enlightening and I became engaged with nature which helped to give me peace of mind and inspired my poetry:
The storm clouds grew On that fateful day When tinnitus took my freedom away It played havoc with my life And filled my heart with trouble and strife It took away my confidence and my fun And held at my head a perilous gun I struggled to make sense of this pain Would I ever get my life back again How could I let this noise in my brain Mess up my life, I needed to regain The life that I loved so very much I needed to reclaim it and keep in touch . . . With life, and all that I held most dear And move on, with nothing to fear The journey was tough, but I would be strong I promised myself it wouldn’t be long Music played an important part It brought back some joy into my heart Nature gave me such delight It gave me joy from morning ‘til night The flowers, the ducks, the birds and bees No longer would tinnitus bring me to my knees My joy returned stronger than ever This beautiful life that I will cherish forever
Supporting others with Tinnitus
In 1986, I became one of the founder members of the Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Tinnitus Support Group. I wanted to share what I had learnt from my own tinnitus journey to help others. Now, 38 years on, the group has grown and developed and remained strong throughout the pandemic.
Our bi-monthly newsletter has become monthly and grown into a magazine where we encourage our members to share stories – not only about their tinnitus but also their lives and memories. Members also share recipes, creative projects, personal stories and their favourite poems. The group has grown into one of a shared friendship.
Our poetry group has continued via Zoom, but we are looking forward to starting face-to-face poetry sessions again soon. We are in the process of producing a second poetry book, which contains poems about nature, the seasons, hope and inspiration.
We are looking forward to starting our ‘soup and social’ meetings and have speakers within our own group who are happy to talk about their interests in life, all of which is a great way of encouraging people in the management of their tinnitus. We are a very positive group, keeping in contact with our members and providing hope which I believe is the secret of the longevity of our support group.
During the pandemic, we did manage several wellbeing walks, mostly around lakes and country parks, observing nature and wildlife along with the wildflowers. It was a joy to see everyone enjoying coming together again in a safe environment. These occasions have been an opportunity to feel free despite the pandemic. I take lots of photographs on my phone, many of which I use within our magazine – bringing a strong sense of how important it is to focus on our beautiful countryside and encourage and inspire people to write articles for our magazine and send us their photos.
Being creative, embracing nature and giving back by sharing my story and listening to others are all techniques in my toolkit for managing tinnitus.
Hearing conditions, hearing loss and tinnitus have a range of causes and can happen to anyone at any age. They are more common to experience in later life and are becoming more prevalent because of Covid-19. They can all have an impact on physical and mental health and affect quality of life without proper support, inclusion or understanding.
If you experience tinnitus and would like to find out more about it and access support, please go to the British Tinnitus Association’s website or follow them on social media:
Our monthly flash theme for March is d/Deafness
Are you d/Deaf? Do you live with hearing loss, tinnitus or disorders of the ear? This March, we’re honouring Hearing Loss Awareness Month with content which signposts to important organisations and sources of support. Hearing conditions, d/Deafness and tinnitus have numerous causes and can happen at any stage of life. They are, however, more common in later life, and can have a significant impact on mental health and quality of life without proper support, inclusion or understanding. We’re especially aware of how creativity can enhance quality of life, so we’d love you to get in touch and tell us about how you manage tinnitus, hearing loss or d/Deafness through creativity. You can do this through a short poem, story or memoir, and we have book prizes for the best one!
Send us your entries by midnight on March 31st, and the winning entry, chosen by Autumn Voices, will receive Deaf Republic by Ilya Kaminsky, published by Faber and Faber and Deaf Sentence by David Lodge, published by Penguin (Harvill Secker).