Tinnitus – the invisible condition

05 February 2014

Tinnitus Awareness Week 2014 runs from 2 to 9 February, and is a reminder that we can take simple steps to avoid long-term damage to our hearing.

Tinnitus Awareness Week 2014 runs from 2 to 9 February, and is a reminder that we can take simple steps to avoid long-term damage to our hearing.

Tinnitus is a term that describes any sound a person can hear from inside their body rather than from an outside source. Commonly described as a ringing sound in the ears, tinnitus can actually include a variety of sounds such as:

  • Humming
  • Buzzing
  • Hissing
  • Grinding
  • Sizzling
  • Whistling

It is not always possible to identify the cause of tinnitus but it is often associated with hearing loss which, in younger people can be cased by damage to the inner ear as a result of excessive noise. However, other causes include:

  • a build-up of earwax that blocks the ear
  • a middle ear infection (otitis media)
  • glue ear (otitis media with infusion)

Tinnitus is common in all age groups, especially following exposure to loud noise. About ten per cent of the population experiences tinnitus all the time which can have an effect on their ability to concentrate at work and/or cause sleeping problems.

A hearing therapist atWest Middlesexsaid: “To prevent hearing loss and tinnitus you should protect your ears from excessive noise exposure by wearing ear protectors if you work in a noisy environment such as, a factory production line or music venue, and wear ear plugs when going to gigs and concerts.”

There is currently no single treatment that works for everyone. If an underlying cause of your tinnitus can be found there may be ways of helping to improve your tinnitus or managing your condition.

West Middlesexhas a Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Support Group that meets bi-monthly at the hospital, usually on a Thursday, and it is run by members of the Audiology and Hearing Therapy team. The group offers support, discussion and information, and we often invite a guest speaker to give a presentation, for example, someone from the British Tinnitus Association, or a demonstration of meditation or relaxation techniques. Those wishing to attend need to have been seen by an ENT consultant at the Trust.

If you are continually hearing sounds such as buzzing, ringing or humming, or if you have regular episodes of hearing these sounds, you should speak to your GP