Tinnitus Awareness Week 2014 runs from 3rd to 9th February with it being estimated that 6.3 million people (1 in 10) in the UK suffer from some form of tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a perception of sound in one or both ears and some describe it as a noise in the middle of their head. The noise has no outside source. It can be intermittent or continuous and can have one or more components to it. Many people experience tinnitus at some time in their lives but for most it only lasts a few minutes but for others it is recurrent, permanent, distracting and debilitating condition.
The sound of tinnitus can be described as hearing whistling, humming, buzzing or ringing. For some it can also sound like singing or music and can beat in time with their pulse.
The precise cause of tinnitus is not understood but it is thought that continuous exposure to any loud noise (90 decibels or above), machinery or loud music are common causes. Also illness, build up of wax, ear infections or the effects of stress and trauma can also contribute.
Initially the damage is temporary, but with continued exposure it can quickly become permanent.
Trying to identify the cause of someone's tinnitus can sometimes help find a way to manage the symptoms. More often than not once the damage has been done tinnitus cannot be cured only managed, unless for example, it is being caused by a build up of wax or another treatable condition.
Increasing danger to young people
In more recent years the use of personal music (mp3) players has been at the forefront of some studies into the causes of tinnitus. There are more younger tinnitus sufferers now than ever before due to the music they listen to and the way they listen to that music. So much so that from February 2013 all personal music players sold in the EU, including mobile phones are expected to have a sound limit on them of 85 decibels. Action on Hearing Loss recently published the findings of a survey that they have carried out by speaking to 1,551 young people under the age of 34 about their listening habits and their views on the new EU Standards.
Their research found that 92% of young people surveyed listen to music on mobile phone or personal music player. Although 95% of the people surveyed said that they were aware of the dangers of listening to loud music a staggering 40% said that they would override the new default settings on their music devices. 79% of young people surveyed were also not aware of the new standards.
However it is not just listening to music through mp3 players that is an issue. Live concerts, clubs and pubs can also leave you with a ringing in your ears.
It's also not just the listeners that are suffering. The Mail Online ran an interesting article in May 2012 about Chris Martin from Coldplay having suffered tinnitus for a decade. The Coldplay singer blames his condition on listening to loud music when he was a teenager and he urges young people now to avoid the same fate. He’s now taken steps to stabilise his condition and to avoid tinnitus ending his musical career he wears ear plugs at concerts and when he is performing.
Tinnitus effects and treatment
Tinnitus can have a wide range of effects and impacts people in different ways. It can affect your ability to concentrate; your ability to sleep which in turn then can cause tension, irritability or even depression.
There is currently no cure or single treatment for tinnitus; however various therapies can help mitigate the symptoms and have a positive effect on the condition.
- • Sound Therapy - Tinnitus is often more noticeable in quiet environments so sound therapy may help. Having some other noise (even the TV or radio) on may distract you from the noise made by your tinnitus. Sound generators can also be used that have quiet natural sounds coming from them such as the wind in the trees, water in a brook etc.
- • Corrective Hearing - If you have any kind of hearing loss this should be corrected (with hearing aids etc.) as straining to hear can make tinnitus worse.
- • Tinnitus Counselling - Sometimes understanding your tinnitus and talking about the affects that it has on your day to day life can play an important part in teaching you how to deal with your tinnitus. Such therapy will be carried out by hearing therapists, audiologists or doctors.
- • Tinnitus Retraining Therapy - Some theories suggest that the limbic system (area of your brain responsible for emotions) prioritises tinnitus sounds over all other sounds. Retraining this part of your brain with therapy to help it get used to a sound so that it becomes part of your subconscious instead of part of your conscious perception of the noise.
- • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - This therapy aims to retrain the way a sufferer thinks in order to change their behaviour. Changing the way a sufferer thinks about and deals with their tinnitus can reduce stress and anxiety and help the sufferer accept the noises and find ways to deal with them.
- • Chiropractic Treatment - The North Derbyshire Tinnitus Support Group recently ran an article prepared by Priscilla So about the benefits of Chiropractic treatment for tinnitus suffers.
Supporting Tinnitus Awareness Week
So during this week please take a moment to visit the various organisations and charities involved and share their information to raise as much awareness of tinnitus as possible.
British Tinnitus Association
Action Hearing Loss
North Derbyshire Tinnitus Support Group
About the author
Samantha Ibrahim is a Chartered Legal Executive with over 14 years experience in personal injury law. For the last 8 years Samantha has specialised in accident at work injuries and industrial disease claims.