The 6th to 12th February 2012 is Tinnitus Awareness Week – and while it’s too late for me, it’s not too late for me to make sure that H grows up knowing that her hearing is something which should be protected and looked after.
I’ve been going to gigs since 1983, and only started using earplugs at gigs in the 2000’s – I know when my problems became permanent, and wish I’d had the common sense to deal with it sooner. Guided By Voices and Seachange played a gig at ULU, the sound was so loud for Seachange that nobody was in the main hall – and you couldn’t even speak in the bar area. It was horribly loud. I know when GbV were on stage was the first time I wore earplugs at a gig. Two days later the ringing started to calm down – again, that should have been a warning sign – but instead I went to Dingwalls and saw Mojave 3 play a gig, standing right down the front with no earplugs in. The ringing hasn’t stopped yet.
From the word go we made sure that H had ear protectors – without trying to be too paranoid about it (my mum, dad and sister have had hearing issues, so there could be something hereditary in there), so parties with a disco would have H with a nice bright yellow pair of Kidproof ear defenders. There’s several brands of these – and they’re not expensive, and definitely worth looking into.
Ultimately, the main way to protect your hearing is to have a sensible outlook from the start. Around 20 years of going to live gigs ruined my hearing because I didn’t pick up on the signs – so any loud events and I’ve got my disposable earplugs (or I just don’t go) – it’s really important to let our kids know they do need to look after their hearing – and there’s cases of people going to one loud gig and having problems – so it doesn’t even have to be a cumulative effect. Some people don’t go to gigs and still have tinnitus, so it’s not unique to one scenario.
The British Tinnitus Association have a Top 10 Tinnitus Tips, which are worth reading through; should you find yourself with this problem then show these to your GP :
1. At any point in time around 10% of the population experience tinnitus – both sexes are equally affected and although tinnitus is more common in the elderly it can occur at any age, including childhood. The perceived sound can have virtually any quality – ringing, whistling and buzzing are common – but more complex sounds can also be described.
2. Most tinnitus is mild – in fact it is relatively rare for it to develop into a chronic problem of life-altering severity. The natural history of tinnitus in most patients is of an acute phase of distress when the problem begins, followed by improvement over time. But for a minority of patients the distress is ongoing and very significant, and they will require specialist support.
3. Tinnitus is more common in people with hearing loss – tinnitus prevalence is greater among people with hearing impairment but the severity of the tinnitus correlates poorly with the degree of hearing loss. It is also quite possible to have tinnitus with a completely normal pure tone audiogram.
4. Tinnitus can be associated with a blocked sensation – for reasons that are not clear tinnitus and sensorineural hearing loss can give rise to a blocked feeling in the ears despite normal middle ear pressure and eardrum mobility. Otoscopy and, if available, tympanometry can exclude Eustachian tube dysfunction. Decongestants and antibiotics are rarely helpful.
5. Giving a negative prognosis is actively harmful – it is all too common to hear that patients have been told nothing can be done about tinnitus. Such negative statements are not only unhelpful but also tend to focus the patient’s attention on their tinnitus and exacerbate the distress. A positive attitude is generally helpful and there are many constructive statements that can be made about tinnitus, such as: most tinnitus lessens or disappears with time; most tinnitus is mild; tinnitus is not a precursor of hearing loss.
6. Enriching the sound environment is helpful – useful sources of sound to reduce the starkness of tinnitus include quiet uneventful music, a fan or a water feature. There are inexpensive devices that produce environmental sounds, and these are particularly useful at bedtime. They can be purchased online from the British Tinnitus Association at www.tinnitus.org.uk or by calling 0114 250 9933.
7. Hearing aids are helpful – straining to listen causes increased central auditory gain and this increased sensitivity can allow tinnitus to emerge or, if already present, to worsen. Correcting any associated hearing loss reduces this central auditory gain and thereby reduces the level of the tinnitus. Hearing aids are useful even if the hearing loss is relatively mild and an aid would not normally be considered. Recent Department of Health guidelines have emphasised the value of audiometry in a tinnitus consultation, and this is the definitive basis for decisions about hearing aid candidacy. If in doubt, refer for an audiological opinion. In our view, all people who describe tinnitus deserve an audiological assessment. Decisions on when to start using a hearing aid and what sort to use are up to the individual patient and audiologist.
8. Underlying pathology is rare, but be vigilant – in many cases tinnitus is due to heightened awareness of spontaneous electrical activity in the auditory system that is normally not perceived. It can however be a symptom of treatable and significant otological pathology, such as a vestibular schwannoma or otosclerosis. One should be especially vigilant if the tinnitus is unilateral, or if it has a pulsatile quality.
9. There is no direct role for drugs – although they can be used to treat associated symptoms such as vertigo, insomnia, anxiety or depression. There is also no conventional or complementary medication that has been shown to have specific tinnitus ameliorating qualities and there is anecdotal suggestion that repeatedly trying unsuccessful therapies worsens tinnitus.
10. Self-help is often effective – the British Tinnitus Association provides excellent information on tinnitus and common sense advice on managing symptoms. It runs a telephone helpline 0800 018 0527 as well as offering advice through its website www.tinnitus.org.uk
With thanks to The Line Of Best Fit for mentioning it in the first place, as I’d never have known.