Acoustic sound engineer hanged himself after fearing he would lose his job when he developed chronic tinnitus
- Dr Mark Lawson, 43, of Reading, found hanged at Cardinal Clinic, Windsor
- He visited specialist unit for treatment for anxiety due to hearing condition
- Inquest in Reading told he feared tinnitus was ’cause of everything wrong’
- Friends described him as ‘very intelligent, clever and caring man’
An accomplished acoustic sound engineer hanged himself after fearing he would lose his job after he developed chronic tinnitus, an inquest heard.
Dr Mark Lawson, who had a PhD in acoustics, felt ‘desperate’ after developing the condition and feared he would have hearing problems ‘for life.’
The 43-year-old, of Reading, Berkshire, became extremely anxious about the ringing in his ears and refused to take medication to calm his mood for fear it would exacerbate the tinnitus.
The inquest at Reading Town Hall, pictured, heard Dr Bedford had become ‘extremely anxious’ about the ringing in his ears and refused to take medication for anxiety in case it made his condition worse
He was voluntarily admitted to a specialist unit to treat his tinnitus-induced anxiety, but was found dead in his room five days later during the afternoon nurse changeover.
Senior coroner for Berkshire Peter Bedford was told Dr Lawson had gone to see his GP in June reporting hearing problems, stress and sleeping problems.
He was recommended an anti-depressant and referred for cognitive behaviour treatment but only took the drug briefly before blaming it for his worsening tinnitus.
Dr Lawson had spent time in online tinnitus forums and would meticulously research any new drug medics prescribed, the inquest in Reading was told.
If he found tinnitus listed as a potential side effect, he would refuse to take the drugs, even though he had been persuaded to spend a few days at the private Cardinal Clinic in Windsor, Berkshire.
Staff said he refused to recognise he was suffering from anxiety, instead demanding to see ear, nose and throat specialists or to be taken to A&E.
Dr Maurice Atkins, a consultant psychiatrist, told the Berkshire coroner that Dr Lawson had constantly ‘battled’ with nurses, adding: ‘I think he was trying to tell us that this tinnitus was always the cause of everything wrong with him.
‘He felt that it had come on while at work and it seemed to be unremitting.
‘He felt it would stop him working. He was quite logical, he said with no salary, he’d lose his house.’
The inquest heard Dr Lawson had blown a problem at work out of proportion, feeding into his worries he would lose his job and remained obstructive and resistant to treatment, taking his prescribed medications only very sporadically.
On the day of his death he had taken a new pill to calm his anxiety, which Dr Atkins said he had largely given him as he simply wanted to offer him ‘something he hadn’t Googled.’
However hours later nurse Dawn Clarke, carrying out one of the two hourly checks on Dr Lawson, found him dead in his unlocked bedroom.
Despite the efforts of her colleague George Garang, emergency staff and a doctor from an air ambulance, he was unable to be saved.
A post mortem examination gave a cause of death as hanging.
Mr Bedford said it was clear Dr Lawson had been an intelligent man but had an obsessional nature.
‘It seems that he would not simply accept medical treatment without thoroughly researching it,’ he said.
‘He was extremely reluctant to take medical advice and particularly to take medication.
‘His focus, particularly to the end of his life, was tinnitus. It appears he believed the medicines he had been given caused the tinnitus.
‘It seems to me there was a vicious cycle and that tinnitus was a symptom. It was particularly relevant to Mark because of working in acoustics. It’s very credible to me that he would be extremely anxious about that.’
The coroner said it was an ‘awful irony’ both that Dr Lawson had expressed thoughts of suicide to friends and family – but not to the medical staff trying to treat his crisis.
Recording a conclusion of suicide, Mr Bedford said: ‘It was a very confusing sequence of events with no obvious opportunity or signals that might in hindsight have raised concerns.
‘A shocking end with no obvious sign other than Mark’s thoughts about tinnitus as a long-term problem and the effects on him personally.
‘The only reason Mark thought he was in the clinic was to treat the ringing in his ears.
‘The conclusion is that he took his own life while suffering from anxiety caused by his described symptom of unremitting tinnitus.’
Speaking after the inquest a friend, who asked not to be named, said hearing problems would not have stopped Dr Lawson doing his job but would have made a difference to his work.
‘He was a very intelligent, clever and caring man,’ he said.
‘He had a very brave face so it was very difficult to get to the reasons behind sometimes. He will be deeply missed.’
No family attended the hearing.