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Revolutionary tinnitus treatment gives veteran his life back

Former Royal Marine Commando Harris Tatakis talks about receiving revolutionary treatment for tinnitus through our Veterans Hearing Fund.

Harris was on tour in Afghanistan when his Land Rover drove over an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).

The blast shattered his left leg, shin and ankle, broke his right foot, ruptured both his eardrums, and caused brain damage.

His leg would heal over time, but the damage to his ear drums resulted in tinnitus - a condition where people affected, hear a ringing, hissing or whistling sound in one or both of their ears or head not linked to any external source.

“The blast ruptured both ear drums,” says Harris.

“And the audio processing part of my frontal lobe was damaged in the blast as well."

Harris Tatakis whilst in the Marines

“Having both a head injury and a physical injury to both ears is so complicated because if it's just hearing loss it's quite easy to rectify, but when you've got an audio-processing injury as well it's been hard. It's physically draining and tiring. I spent two years having three or four appointments a week. 

“With hearing loss you can use hearing aids, but with tinnitus there is no cure and that's the biggest frustration. I got it to a level where I could live with it, but it never went away. Then after a medication mix-up last year after a knee operation I had a bad reaction and my tinnitus just went through the roof. 

“For about a year it really was ruining my life. I couldn't get out, I couldn't tolerate people around me and I was desperate. I knew what was available on the NHS and I had tried it all before.

“Tinnitus is like having a dentist drill constantly in your ear. Just imagine walking around with that. You're trying to work, trying to listen to people and all you can hear is a high-pitched whine, constantly – and that's just during the day. Now try sleeping with it at night - you can't.

“Tinnitus is like having a dentist drill constantly in your ear.”

“Obviously then your sleep gets affected which means you start off the next day badly. You can't relax because there is a constant high pitch whine there. It’s so intense that it’s actually physically painful as well.

“You can never have peace and quiet again. You are always on edge. It's exhausting and mentally tiring.

“People can't see it so they don't understand why you're in pain or why you can't tolerate people speaking to you, and that's the biggest frustration.”

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£2m

We've awarded over £2 million to support ex-Serving personnel with hearing issues.

Veterans hearing fund

In 2017 Harris was the first veteran in the UK to be treated through with the revolutionary ‘Levo’ treatment.

This uses iPod technology to administer treatment while he sleeps. We funded the treatment through the Veterans Hearing Fund (VHF), which is part of the Veterans Medical Funds.

This was set up in 2015 in response to research published by the Legion that showed working age veterans are 3.5 times more likely to suffer from hearing loss than the general population, and are funded through a £13m commitment from HM Treasury using income generated from the Libor rate-fixing fines.

“The Legion has helped to change my life for the better.”

"If I’m honest I didn’t know a lot about what it could offer until I discovered that the charity funded hearing treatment. It’s fair to say that the treatment – and indeed the Legion – has given my life back to me.

“The Royal British Legion is out there supporting me by paying for the treatment, and I’d encourage anyone in my position to make the most of the help.

"The Legion is here for us whether we’re young or old and that’s a wonderful thing.”

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