Tinnitus can be an irritating and sometimes maddening thing to deal with. It is defined as hearing sounds that come from within the body, such as ringing, rather than an outside source. A definitive cause of tinnitus is unknown, but 2 out of 3 cases are linked with underlying hearing problems or degeneration. Tinnitus Awareness Week aims to increase awareness of the ailment and to make it easier for those who suffer from it to know what to do.
Although tinnitus is most commonly believed to cause a ‘ringing’ in the ears, other sounds can also sometimes be heard such as buzzing, humming, grinding, hissing, or whistling. Despite causing only a mild, intermittent irritation in many cases, tinnitus can be continuous and cause stress and discomfort to the sufferer. Serious cases can affect sleep and concentration, ultimately leading to bouts of depression or insomnia.
Tinnitus Awareness Week – When to see your GP
If you are suffering from continuous tinnitus, constantly hearing ringing, buzzing or humming, you can make an appointment with your GP. They can check for known causes such as a build up of ear wax or an ear infection, or at least eliminate them as possible causes. They can then refer you to see a specialist if they feel that is the next best step.
Types of Treatment
In many cases, tinnitus will improve in time, but there is no quick fix solution. Your GP may be able to reduce a build-up of ear wax, should they determine that as the cause. Hearing aids can help if the underlying cause is a hearing problem, otherwise treatments can include sound therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, or counselling. There is also something called Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, which aims to retrain the way your brain responds to tinnitus and help you begin to become less aware of it.
Is it possible to deal with tinnitus at home?
The British Tinnitus Association provides some excellent advice on dealing with tinnitus. As the founders of Tinnitus Awareness Week, they recommend a visit to your GP as a first port of call, but also recommend relaxation and distraction techniques to reduce stress until the problem is dealt with. Using music, meditation, exercise, and concentrating on a creative activity such as painting or writing can all reduce stress and distract the mind from the sounds caused by tinnitus.
The British Tinnitus Association also have a helpline which you can access Monday to Friday 9am-5pm – 0800 018 0527
You can also email them for more information at [email protected]
Without a definitive cause, preventing tinnitus is difficult. There are, however, a number of things you can do to protect your ears from the most obvious causes. This includes protecting your ears from loud noises by making sure ear phones aren’t too loud, standing away from speakers, or wearing ear protectors, ear muffs or ear buds if you work around loud machinery or in a noisy environment. Constant sound can also cause tinnitus, so it can be worth giving your ears a break if you are somewhere noisy.
Seeking further help
Speaking to your GP about tinnitus is the first step, but the Royal Berkshire Hospital has an excellent Hearing and Balance service which your GP can refer you to. They work together with the British Tinnitus Association to raise awareness and provide the best care and support possible.
If you believe you are suffering from tinnitus, make an appointment with your GP. Further information and advice can be found at the NHS Choices website.