This week is Tinnitus Awareness Week (TAW). It is an annual event which is taking place from 6-12 February supported by the British Tinnitus Association.
Activity will be based around the campaign ‘Together for Tinnitus’ which is intended to generate discussion about tinnitus and raise awareness of the work being carried out and support provided by the British Tinnitus Association and other services across the UK.
The association will be working hard to raise awareness amongst GPs about the condition and the treatment options available, so they feel confident to support patients who are experiencing this often distressing and debilitating condition.
During the week, they will be launching their official ‘Tinnitus Guidance for GPs’ document which will provide the most up-to-date information on how people suffering from tinnitus can best be helped from diagnosis through to self-help management of the condition. In addition, they are promoting a new online resource for people newly diagnosed with tinnitus www.takeontinnitus.co.uk.
‘Take on Tinnitus’ is designed to give facts and ideas for things you can do to manage tinnitus and is an ideal resource for GPs to suggest to new tinnitus patients.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus (ringing in your ears) refers to the perception of sound in the ear when no external sound is present.
There are two broad types of tinnitus:
– Middle-ear tinnitus is produced in the middle ear behind your eardrum.
– Sensorineural tinnitus is produced in the inner ear and possibly in your nervous system.
Tinnitus is often accompanied by hearing loss. Middle-ear tinnitus is rare and results from hearing your muscles twitch or hearing the sound of blood vessels. Middle-ear tinnitus may be medically or surgically treated. Sensorineural tinnitus has no proven medical or surgical therapy.
Tinnitus has many possible sources including noise exposure, the natural aging process, medications, head injury, ear diseases (such as Meniere’s disease), allergies, and certain autoimmune, neurologic and psychiatric disorders.
Audiologist’s help patients select the appropriate hearing protection for their personal needs. Noise-induced tinnitus can be prevented with hearing protection. For many, the underlying cause of tinnitus is unknown.
There is no known cure for tinnitus. However, research studies are being conducted to find a cure for tinnitus. Based on controlled research studies, there are no medications or dietary supplements that have been shown to effectively or consistently treat tinnitus. Hearing aids may help tinnitus three ways:
– By improving your hearing and reducing stress from having to listen very carefully.
– By amplifying background sound (which can help partially mask the tinnitus).
– By stimulating hearing nerves.
Tinnitus and the role of an audiologist
For sufferers of tinnitus, help is offered by the audiology profession. An audiologist can adjust hearing aids to maximize benefits for hearing loss and/or tinnitus.
An audiologist may offer patients several devices specifically designed for tinnitus relief or management. For example, wearable noise generators that produce a low-level “sssshhhhhhhhh” sound, wearable music-generating devices that provide specially processed music adjusted for your hearing loss, and non-wearable sound-producing devices that produce a variety of sounds (e.g., ocean waves) whose level and quality can be adjusted. Patients are encouraged to consult an audiologist to determine which devices are the most helpful with their tinnitus.
There are also several different counseling approaches to help people with their reactions to tinnitus. For example, Tinnitus Activities Treatment (TAT) provides individualized counseling in four areas: overall emotional well-being, hearing, sleep, and concentration. Additionally, self-help books are available and are very useful.