IT should have been a fun night out to ring in the new year, but instead Siobhan Aston left a decibel-shattering Hogmanay party night in Ayrshire with hearing damage that would drive her to suffer a nervous breakdown.

The married mother-of-three from Kilwinning had been invited to the event at a local restaurant by friends to celebrate the end of 2015.

However, the DJ was playing music so loudly that Ms Aston, now 40, left with the sound still ringing in her ears.

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She said: "It's horrible. You go out to have a good time - in my case it was New Year's Eve - but the music was exceptionally loud. You couldn't actually hear yourself speak - you had to speak straight into people's ears to be heard.

"If you'd asked me beforehand, I might have heard something about noise exposure and damage, but it's certainly not something I really understood until after the fact.

"When I left I though 'jeez, my ears are ringing', but when I woke up the next day and it was still there that's when I knew I was in trouble."

Since then the nurse has been plagued by a multi-tonal tinnitus characterised by one constant tone in her ear and another variable sound which she describes as a "sort of whistling".

Within days of developing the symptoms she remembers visiting her GP in tears.

"I was quite distressed by then," said Ms Aston I was in tears saying 'I've had this problem since a night out last week'. The GP was like 'it could go away'. He even gave me some ear drops to try. I was quite hopeful but deep down I don't think I ever believed it would go away, and unfortunately I was right."

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There is no cure for tinnitus and it is often unclear what exactly has caused it.

In most cases it develops when the tiny, delicate hairs of the inner ear are damaged. These are supposed to move in response to sound waves, releasing an electrical signal via the auditory nerve which the brain interprets as 'hearing'.

However, exposure to loud noise, such as machinery, can lead these hairs to become bent or broken.

Victims can experience symptoms that come and go, but in the worst cases they are constant. The sound is not always a ringing tone - hissing, humming, clicking and buzzing tones are also common.

In some cases, tinnitus occurs as a result of ageing, as a side effect of chronic conditions such as diabetes or by a rare tumour known as an acoustic neuroma.

Ms Aston said the impact of the condition psychologically has been "huge".

Her own experience chimes with recent research by the charity Action on Hearing Loss Scotland, which found that a quarter of sufferers struggle with their mental health.

She said: "It has been the cause of quite significant mental health problems, and I wasn't someone who ever experienced mental health issues before tinnitus.

"I had what I would class as a breakdown initially because I was struggling to cope with it, and then another breakdown again about 18 months later.

"The impact is pretty heavy. Unless someone has ever even experienced it, even temporarily, I don't think they can appreciate the impact that it has on your daily life."

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Such was her desperation that Ms Aston resorted to paying to see a private doctor in Glasgow when she was told she faced a five-month wait for an appointment with an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) consultant on the NHS.

"It wasn't really something I could afford but I was desperate. I saw an ENT specialist who was also qualified in audiology and he said he would write back to my GP to say that I needed referred to a consultant.

"They have to rule out anything like acoustic neuroma first, but there's no treatment as such.

"They can send you to audiology and they'll teach you some coping mechanisms. You can have tinnitus counselling but that's more of an education session about what tinnitus is, the idea being if you understand what it is you won't distress you in the same way. I would debate that though."

According to a survey of 459 tinnitus patients by Action on Hearing Loss Scotland, nearly half (47%) got no information from their GP and 31% said they had been dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the information, treatment and support offered by their ENT department.

The ‘Tuning out tinnitus’ report use stresses that there are tools available which can help relieve the distress caused by tinnitus, such as sound therapy products or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Teri Devine, director of Action on Hearing Loss Scotland said: “By the time people contact a healthcare professional regarding their tinnitus, they can often be very distressed. It is therefore very concerning that our research has found that many people with tinnitus are told by their GP that nothing can be done to help them and are not being informed about potential coping options.”