A ROCK fan killed himself after being tortured by a painful battle with tinnitus – which made him constantly hear country and western music.
Glen Mitchell, 53, took his own life just 12 weeks after being diagnosed with the debilitating condition which was caused by listening to a noisy band at his local pub.
It got so bad the retired firefighter couldn't turn the bathroom light on as the noise of the extractor fan hurt his ears.
Even the sound of a boiling kettle was too much to take.
Wife Linda said her formerly "happy, healthy and fun loving" husband completely changed after suffering a mental health breakdown as a result of his ordeal.
She said before he took a fatal overdose of painkillers, Glen had such a severe physical reaction to sound that even her BREATHING caused him pain.
The 45-year-old former council worker has now blasted NHS doctors for failing to provide treatment which she believes would have prevented Glen's death.
Linda, of Duston, Northampton, said:"I had been married to Glen for ten years but we'd been together for 22 and had a really happy life.
"He was a happy, healthy, fun loving bloke who was hard working, active and very fit. All that changed so quickly, it is almost hard to comprehend.
"It all started when my husband Glen and I went to our local pub to watch a live band.
"They played modern rock music like The Jam, that sort of thing, but they were very loud to the point where we just walked out.
"What followed was heart-breaking, frustrating and ultimately – unnecessary. As the tinnitus continued, Glen became exhausted.
"He cherished silence at bedtime but because of the various noises he was suffering from as well as ear pain and spasms, he was unable to sleep.
"This, combined with the anxiety that his tinnitus would never go away, contributed to a very rapid mental decline.
"Eventually we went to our GP but we were too easily dismissed and not offered any support or advice about where to turn for the tinnitus or obvious levels of anxiety.
"Everyone just seemed disinterested and we felt very alone.
"I just want to make people aware of the issue because there seems to be a knee-jerk reaction from doctors that you should just get on and try and live with it.
"But it can cause so much devastation and it proved to be absolute torture for my husband – both psychically and mentally.
"My husband really liked his rock music and was into U2 and ACDC, but the funny thing was, he was hearing country and western in his head.
"There are more side-effects to tinnitus than just ringing in the ears, you can get whistling, buzzing, grinding and hissing sounds too and Glen had all of that.
"But also you can get musical hallucinations, hearing music that isn't playing, and Glen kept hearing country and western.
"He would say 'if I'm going to suffer from this, at least let me hear some decent rock and roll music'.
"I couldn't even lay next to him in bed by the end because my breathing caused him pain. "
WHAT IS TINNITUS?
It is often described as a “ringing in the ears” but the exact sound heard can vary from person to person.
The sounds most commonly experienced include a ringing, buzzing, whistling, humming or hissing sound.
These perceived sounds may come and go or be continuous and the condition can develop suddenly or over time.
In the majority of cases, some may only notice the condition at quiet times, including at night when they are trying to sleep.
But, others may find that the condition intrudes upon their daily life and really bothers them.
Linda said her husband would be awake at 4am every morning pacing the streets in a bid to exhaust himself to try and get a good nights sleep.
He soon became suicidal and made an attempt to take his life but Linda would find him and get him to hospital in time.
Glen was soon referred to ear, nose and throat specialists but it was never confirmed that he had damage or hearing loss.
Linda added: "By this time he had also developed hyperacusis, a sensitivity to sound, and I was really pushing for more support.
"I could see that when he did have the chance to talk about his condition and get reassurance from medical professionals that it was helping.
"But, his mental health was getting worse as his tinnitus and hyperacusis worsened, and it was a vicious circle that we just couldn't break.
"I was furious with the way he was dealt with, we did not get the support we needed and we were told to just try and get on with life as normal.
"But that was impossible, after two weeks he tried to take his own life by taking an overdose of painkillers and then ten weeks later he did the same with Tramadol.
"The psychological effects of sleep deprivation combined with the tinnitus, hyperacusis and being told there was no cure just became too much for him to take.
"His death could have been prevented with the right level of psychological support and that is why it is so hard to take."
Linda is now sharing her story for the first time four years on as part of the British Tinnitus Associations (BTA) 'Share Your Sound' campaign.
She added: "How a humorous, loving man, full of life could have got to that point so quickly is just devastating.
"I'm determined that lessons be learnt from Glen's death.
"It shouldn't and doesn't need to get to such a tragic point and I want to encourage anybody out there with tinnitus not to lose hope. There is help out there.
"I am really passionate about supporting GPs to become more knowledgeable about tinnitus and the potential impact the condition can have so they are more able to treat patients and improve their quality of life before things escalate."
For tinnitus support, visit the British Tinnitus Association's website: www.tinnitus.org.uk.
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans on (free) 116123 or 020 7734 2800.
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