Taming Tinnitus

My name is Randy Horel and this is my story as a tinnitus suffer.  I acquired this condition in the spring of 2007.  I was 47 at the time and had gone back to college to get my Certification in Adult Education so I’d be able to teach at a College here in Winnipeg.  Being what some may call an “A” type personality, I set my goals so high that I wanted to achieve honours in this course, and put pressure on myself to do just that.  I now know that this enormous stress flipped a switch in my brain and thus the tinnitus showed up one fine morning.  It was the morning that would change my life forever, and one day, almost end it.

You see, I know what everyone with severe tinnitus is going through.  I was there, and I almost took my own life in 2008. By then I had taken a job teaching five new college-level courses.  I was a new teacher who had accepted far too much.  It was insane!  I’d backed myself into a corner and that accelerated my tinnitus big-time.  I was stressed to the max.  And you know what? I kept it up because I thought I was doing the right thing. I felt that I was cornered and didn’t have a way out.  I started thinking about how I was going to get out of this situation – and they were the thoughts that you don’t want to be having.  I was stressing my family too, and they didn’t know what to do.  They felt the same as other families do in the same circumstances.

I did a trial-run in my garage one day with the garage doors closed.  I sat there in the front seat of my car with the engine running.  I remembered as a kid how, for some reason, I liked the smell of car exhaust.  I lay back, turned the music on and started to smell the gas.  And, you know, it wasn’t bad. That night or one night soon, I decided, I would go out and get really really drunk, come home quietly and shut the door behind me, and with a full gas tank I’d lock the doors, put my favourite music on and lie back with the help of some sleeping pills.  I thought I wouldn’t have hurt a soul.  My terror would be over. Those thoughts kept haunting me for weeks. Then finally came the morning that I put that white envelop under my wife’s pillow – it was my good-bye note. I walked up stairs and was heading out on the highway, out to the country to teach those courses, and then my cell-phone rang.  It was 6:58 a.m.  The caller was Jennifer Battaglia from New York, the therapist that I had spoken to on the phone a while back.  I had paid $250 for a 75 min session, and I am so glad now that I had spent the money. I had emailed her good-bye that morning too, and I guess she got it on her Blackberry and called immediately. She told me that I could make it through this ordeal and that if I ended my life that I would be hurting my family for the rest of their lives. Her call changed my mind.  In one short moment I was able to speak to someone over the phone who understood, and it changed my life. After that I vowed to make it my mission to make sure no one would ever end their life because of tinnitus.

I finished up my year of teaching with the ringing competing in my head everyday, but I had been given hope that I could make it, and by someone over the telephone.  I completed my teaching contract in June and took the next year off to drive a semi tractor down the highway because it was a place that I could not hear the ringing because of the road noise and all.  But I have to tell you that every morning when I woke up, the ringing would come.  However, I had found a way, for long periods of time, to reduce and sometimes eliminate the ringing because of all the road noise inside the truck.

That got me to a point where, as an older adult, I was not sure what I wanted to do with my life. I knew it wasn’t driving a truck down the highway. That’s when I came across a gentleman by the name of Pat Hastings, a hearing aid specialist.  He allowed me to try a new hearing aid product that let me bring in the sounds of the outside world through volume control. When I turned the volume up it was like having a microphone in my ear but I could hear the sounds around me and not the tinnitus. That was the point that turned my life around. I could control the tinnitus with the hearing aids’ remote control device.  It took a couple of weeks before I believed it, but it had worked. I had control, and that was something that I needed so much. Since then I have habituated the tinnitus for 90% of my daily life and it is no longer an issue. I now work in a job that is very rewarding and I help people who suffer from tinnitus whenever I can. I started the Manitoba Tinnitus Association and Support Group.  We are a fledgling organization, but we are building it as we go, and hopefully helping people who suffer from this condition. For anyone who needs to talk about their tinnitus, I can be reached at my home, 204-897-5669 or by email at randyhorel@mymts.net . I am more than willing to help and share.

Warmest Regards

Randy Horel