Tinnitus Awareness Week is taking place from 5th – 11th February 2018. The aim of the week is to raise much-needed awareness of the condition, which affects approximately one in ten of the population.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not a disease or illness but it is a symptom that is generated within the auditory system. It is a perception of noises which have no external source. The noise may be in one or both ears, in the head or it may be difficult to pinpoint its exact location. Tinnitus may be low, medium or high pitched and affects people differently. It can be described as a pulsating, ringing, buzzing or hissing sound.
What causes tinnitus?
Unfortunately, the causes of tinnitus are still not understood but it can be associated with hearing loss, exposure to a loud noise, stress and anxiety or ear infections.
How to prevent tinnitus
Tinnitus cannot always be prevented but there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from tinnitus:
- If you are going to be exposed to loud sounds of over 85dB then make sure you wear earplugs.
- If you use earplugs or hearing aids, make sure you keep them clean.
- Don’t put things in your ear – not even cotton buds! These can cause infections which can lead to tinnitus.
- Try to keep a healthy balanced life and de-stress every day.
- If you are going to a club, gig or festival try not to stand by the speakers because the closer you are to the source of the sound, the louder it will be.
- When listening to music through headphones, make sure you set the volume to a safe level. This means that the volume of the music should not completely block out other external sounds.
- Take regular breaks. Your ears can cope better if you give them regular breaks when in a noisy environment.
How loud is too loud?
Sound is measured in decibels dB and above 85dB is the level which it becomes unsafe without the use of hearing protection. If you work in a noisy environment where the noise is 85dB and over, hearing protection should be provided.
To give you some understanding of how loud sounds are, below are some examples of the sound levels in dB and the maximum exposure times, after which, you should use hearing protection:-
Industrial fire alarm
Hand held drill
Live rock band
Noise at work
The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 (the Noise Regulations) came into force for all industry sectors on 6th April 2006 (except for the music and entertainment sectors where they came into force on 6th April 2008). The aim of the Noise Regulations is to ensure that workers’ hearing is protected from excessive noise at their work place, which could cause them to lose their hearing and/or to suffer from tinnitus.
Employers must provide hearing protection at 85dB and the level at which employers must assess the risk to workers’ health and provide them with information and training is 80dB. Taking into account any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection, workers must not be exposed to more than 87dB of noise.
If you suspect that you have tinnitus it is recommended that you see your doctor who will be able to refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist for hearing tests. You may then be referred to the audiology service for help in managing your tinnitus. Once your hearing is damaged then it cannot be fixed and so different techniques are used to manage tinnitus such as counselling, correcting any hearing loss with hearing aids etc., sound therapy and relaxation.
The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) provide support and information to people with tinnitus (and their family, friends and carers). Last year, they spoke to over 5,500 people either by phone or by email. For more information and support about tinnitus you can telephone them on their helpline number of 0800 018 0527 or by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are a series of free events taking place across the country, offering informal guidance and advice to sufferers. We have provided a summary below but please do visit the BTA page for contact details, times and further information as more events are added to the programme.
Monday 5th February
- Bolton FM - Farhana Mohamed, an Audiologist at the Royal Bolton Hospital, and Brian Holland a member of the local tinnitus support group will be live on the radio from 12.15pm
- BBC Radio Cambridgeshire - Trevor Chapman, Audiologist at the Cambridge hearing clinic angliEAR, will be live on the radio from 12.15pm
Tuesday 6th February
- Bolton Community of Mosques Centre - a team from the Audiology Department will be at the centre with an information stand available to answer any questions
- North Shields Library - Deaf Awareness are holding a tinnitus awareness morning with attendance from a hearing therapist and BSL interpreter
- Facebook live Q&A – visit the angliEAR page for a session on children with tinnitus
Wednesday 7th February
- Riverside Shopping Centre, Shrewsbury - staff and volunteers from the Signal Charity will be at Signak will be available for advice on equipment that can help to alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus
- Shrewsbury College - free information and advice to staff and students on how to protect your ears from noise damage
- Airedale General Hospital, Keighley – a one hour presentation and Q&E session is taking place with speakers from the Audiology Department. This is a ticketed event so attendees should contact the Hospital to request their free tickets
- Stourbridge Hearing Centre - free walk in advice on tinnitus and hearing aids from Starkey Laboratories
- Facebook live Q&A - visit the angliEAR page for a session on getting the most out of your GP appointments
- Café Italia Bolton - the Bolton support group is holding an evening meeting with a relaxation theme. Members of the Audiology Department will also be in attendance.
Thursday 8th February
- Chesterfield Library - the Chesterfield & North Derbyshire local support group are holding an information and advice open day
- Facebook live Q&A - visit the angliEAR page for a session on the impact of tinnitus on friends, family members and colleagues
- The Burston Crown, Norfolk - hearing protection and in-ear monitors company, ACS, will be giving away 25 sets of ear protectors and are holding a fundraising prize draw to win a custom fit pair
Friday 9th February
- Facebook live Q&A - visit the angliEAR page for a round up session on this week’s events
Saturday 10th February
- Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow - tinnitus and hearing information show for both members of the public and health professionals, including interactive presentations and Q&A sessions
The BTA is also encouraging social media users to take part in the #tinnitusweek ‘thunderclap’ at 12pm on 9th February 2018. When you decide to take part, an automated message will be sent from your chosen account to all of your friends or followers.
By Sarah Masters and Clare Gammond in the industrial disease team.