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Break the silence: it’s time to take on tinnitus

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Nic Wray, Communications Manager, British Tinnitus Association

Tinnitus is a very common condition, which can be very distressing for those that experience it, so this month’s sees our tinnitus awareness week to help raise its public profile. Whilst there is no current cure, there are a number of management techniques which can be used to successfully manage it. Key to improving the tinnitus patient’s experience is good quality information and reassurance. At the British Tinnitus Association, our aim is to provide simple and clear advice which can be passed on, to support those that need help.

Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the head and/or ears where there’s no corresponding external sound. These sounds can include ringing, whistling, buzzing or be more complex. It is a very common condition – at any point around 10% of the population experience tinnitus. Around 1.05 million GP consultations for tinnitus are held in the UK every year.

Although tinnitus is more common in older people, it can occur at any age, including childhood. Men and women are equally affected.

Tinnitus is more frequent in people with hearing loss, but its severity does not depend on the severity of the hearing loss. It is quite possible to have tinnitus with normal hearing.

The causes of tinnitus are still not understood, but it is associated with: hearing loss; exposure to loud noise; stress and anxiety; ear infections; and ear wax build up

It is rare for tinnitus to develop into a chronic problem which severely impacts quality of life. In most patients, tinnitus is distressing when the problem begins, and improves over time.

We frequently hear that patients have been told that ‘nothing can be done about tinnitus’ or that ‘you’ll just have to learn to live with it.’ Statements like this are unhelpful and could increase the distress felt by the patient.

A positive attitude combined with accurate information and reassurance is generally helpful, and there are many constructive comments that can be made, such as ‘evidence shows that most tinnitus lessens or disappears over time’, ‘most tinnitus is mild’ or ‘tinnitus doesn’t mean that you will lose your hearing.’

Self-help for tinnitus is often effective. Signposting to information and resources such as the British Tinnitus Association’s helpline, information leaflets and website are available to give patients ideas for self-management.

We have also produced a new online resource aimed specifically at patients who have recently developed tinnitus and want some simple, clear information and advice, which includes facts, tips, exercises and videos: We have the tools to help you and your patients take on tinnitus.
British Tinnitus Association
Helpline: 0800 018 0527

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