Nicola McGarry, a school teacher from London, started suffering with tinnitus two years ago and her experience of the condition, combined with her job in a primary school, sparked an interest in how tinnitus impacts on younger people particularly in the school environment. Here, as part of Tinnitus Week, which the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) is marking by focusing on children and young people with the condition, Nicola tells her story of why she is getting involved.
“Nearly two years ago, I was going through a particularly stressful time and I think that, along with some mild hearing loss, is what triggered my tinnitus. It hasn’t stopped since, all that has changed is that I am slowly learning to live with it.
I knew a little about tinnitus before my diagnosis but I had no real understanding of the impact it can have. It really affects me day to day particularly my sleep, concentration levels and general mood. At first I was really angry about the horrible situation I found myself in but over time I’ve realised that if I could put my mind to something more positive maybe that would help with my outlook for the future.
I find it very difficult to describe the three noises I hear to others, so I began to imagine how hard it must be for a young child to verbalise the sounds they experience. As an adult, I have been able to adapt my life to address the difficulties I face. Children with tinnitus might not be able to articulate how they are feeling or be able to change aspects of their life in the same way that an adult can.
I have been a primary school teacher for 25 years and very few of my colleagues are aware of tinnitus and the fact that it can also occur in children. After doing some research I discovered that one in 30 children will have the condition – that is one in every classroom. I feel schools do need to be better informed so they are equipped to help those children who need it.
Children may appear to be distracted when in fact they are unable to hear the teacher or they may be tired as they struggle to sleep. As art of the week, the BTA has launched a range of resources for parents and teachers to become more aware of the signs of tinnitus so we can put strategies in place to help children live with the condition and continue to thrive, especially at school.
As a teacher it is my job to ensure that every child gets the very best learning experience when they are at school and if there is a child out there who is hampered by tinnitus, I just want to make sure the support they need is readily available. That would be a really powerful thing to play a part in.”
Tinnitus Week runs from 5-11 February 2018 aiming to get the nation talking about tinnitus and highlight the stories of those living with it, particularly children and young people. For more information please visit the British Tinnitus Association’s website www.tinnitus.org.uk. You can also follow the hashtag #tinnitusweek on social media. To download the new BTA resources designed for parents and teachers to understand more about tinnitus and to support children with the condition visit: www.tinnitus.org.uk/Pages/Category/tinnitus-in-children