A sympathetic ear for tinnitus sufferers

A PATIENT who has suffered from tinnitus for nearly 40 years says that the sympathy and understanding of her family and the audiology team at Basildon Hospital has helped her live with the condition.

Tinnitus is any sound that a person can hear from inside their body, rather than from an outside source. It is often described as a ringing in the ear, but a range of different sounds can be heard at varying volume levels. Tinnitus is not a physically harmful condition but it can cause distress and prevent sufferers from sleeping or concentrating.

Dawn explains: “Tinnitus affects lot of people. Depending on its level and other factors, it doesn‟t bother some people but can really cause distress in others. In older people, tinnitus is often caused by natural hearing loss. In younger people, the condition can sometimes occur as a result of hearing damage caused by excessive noise.

“Tinnitus can swamp what you are trying to hear, prevent you sleeping and that in turn stops you functioning in daily life. Our job in the audiology service is to helppeople function with the noise. There is no cure but there are lots of things we can do to help you stop noticing it.”

Help for tinnitus sufferers includes hearing aids which help overcome the noise. In some cases “white noise‟ can be fed into the hearing aids. Tinnitus can seem much worse at night when people take their hearing aids out. There are CDs and devices such as pillow speakers available that play relaxing sounds, although these may not be practical for the partner of the tinnitus sufferer.

Treatments offered by the audiology service also include cognitive behavioural therapy, to help sufferers relax and tolerate their condition.

Pat adds: “It is not easy to live with and if you are under stress it becomes worse. But there are people with worse problems so you have to try and put it to back of your mind so it doesn‟t dominate your life.

“I don‟t normally talk to people about it because so many say they have it too, but most don‟t understand how loud it can be for me. I recently woke my husband up in the middle of the night because I thought the burglar alarm was going off.”

“The best help is the understanding of friends, family and health professionals. My husband and children are very nice about it, and the audiology service at Basildon Hospital is very good. They are so patient and understanding.”

This week (3 – 9 February) is Tinnitus Awareness Week, organised by the British Tinnitus Society. Pat says the message she would most like to get across to people is that understanding and support is very helpfuI for sufferers, and also that young people should protect their hearing as tinnitus frequently comes with hearing loss.

She says: “I am always telling my children and grandchildren to be careful about too much loud music and noise, especially as hearing loss runs in our family.”

tinnitusFor information and support about tinnitus, see www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk or www.tinnitus.org.uk

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