Did you know it’s Tinnitus Awareness Week 2014? It happens every year and this year runs from the 3-9 February. The aim is to bring the condition of noises heard in the head and/or ears to the attention of thousands across the UK.
Tinnitus Awareness Week 2014 is this week. Tinnitus affects at least one in 10 of the UK population, a massive 6.3 million, and is the unseen condition which can cause distress to individuals of any age. Tinnitus can be mild to severe and can affect sleep and concentration. It can also lead to anxiety and depression and at this time there is currently no cure. Being someone who has had it for over eight years now, being told ‘learn to live with it’ isn’t the most ideal of solutions but is often the one we’re told.
The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) believes this is not acceptable or true, and works tirelessly to provide support, advice and management techniques to reduce the impacts of tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a condition which is heard but not seen – but the BTA wants to hear from people with the condition, to offer the help and support which is so vital in the early stages. The charity, based in Sheffield, works to support anyone with the condition and during Tinnitus Awareness Week the BTA will be raising awareness by encouraging people to talk about tinnitus and highlight the help that is available.
In the ‘BTA Survey 2013’*, feedback from members of the public about help they’d received for the condition highlighted that 77% of those completing the survey consulted their GP about tinnitus, but only 13% were told about the BTA on doing so. During Tinnitus Awareness Week, the BTA will again be encouraging GP’s, to refer onto secondary care where appropriate and to inform people of the BTA’s freephone helpline 0800 018 0527 and website www.tinnitus.org.uk.
One respondent to the BTA survey said “I was given invaluable support in the early panic-stricken stages of the condition. The helpline was practically a lifesaver”. And another said “The BTA has completely changed my views of tinnitus and talking to them has changed my life. I no longer live in fear that my tinnitus will ruin my life”. The sooner someone can talk about their tinnitus and be heard, the sooner they can come to terms with it and start moving forward.
Most importantly of all, it does get better. Studies have indicated that, over time, the noises disappear completely or at least diminish to a tolerable threshold level in the majority of cases, as the brain loses interest and stops surveying the signal. This process is called ‘habituation’. The length of time this takes varies from person to person – but it does happen.
Hospitals across the UK will be getting involved during Tinnitus Awareness Week by displaying information, local tinnitus support groups will be holding meetings and events will be held across the UK to highlight the support that is available. Anyone wishing to get involved in Tinnitus Awareness Week 2014 should contact Emily Broomhead at the BTA on 0114 2509933 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. All events and information displays will be listed on the BTA’s website at www.tinnitus.org.uk/TAW2014.
* Copies of the BTA’s Survey 2013 are available from the BTA upon request.
My Tinnitus Story.
It was gigs. Too many, too loud, too often. I know the gigs I saw that week. Guided by Voices and Seachange at ULU, when it was so loud for the support nobody could hear themselves in the bar. I used earplugs for the first time that night as the ringing in my ears after gigs had stayed a little bit longer than usual, I thought wearing earplugs for gigs would spoil it. More fool me. By the time GbV were on the earplugs stayed – they were fantastic, but loud, so very very loud.
Two days later I saw Mojave 3 at Dingwalls, and stood right near the front, right by Rachel and her bass guitar. Near the bass isn’t the best place to stand when you *may* have hearing issues, and sure enough, the following day the ringing hadn’t gone. Nor the day after that. In fact, it never left.
At first it was hard. You want to cut off your ears to make the ringing stop (not the most rational of thinking there), then you find ways of dealing with it. Mine was a speaker pillow plugged into my clock radio, tuned off-channel – the white noise made a difference. But it doesn’t make the ringing go – it never goes.
So my coping techniques. Learn to lipread. That made a huge difference. Tell people you have a hearing problem. Always wear earplugs for gigs. Don’t expect anyone to remember. They’ll probably think you’re weird when you’re looking at someone’s mouth when you talk to them. When you’re in a pub with a group of people, don’t expect to hear a thing, though expect to hear background music which is probably quieter than the people around you. My tinnitus is odd like that – a bit like being in a bubble that can’t be popped.
I was referred to the ENT department back when I was first diagnosed, and it was confirmed I have hearing loss and tinnitus. The way it was described was the lower frequency letters – vowels. So when someone speaks to me, I’m not hearing the vowels, just the other sounds. Sounds kind of weird doesn’t it?
The worst it is right now is when I can’t tell what someone is saying (usually Shaun as he’s quite softly spoken), he’ll get a bit frustrated with me when I can’t understand him. H understands and will often repeat things to me. My most important thing with my hearing right now is making sure H learns to respect her ears and cover them appropriately – hearing problems run in my family and I’m determined she will have proper protection when exposed to noise so she can still enjoy herself. That’s my happy ending. That’s the only ending until they find a cure.