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Southend Hospital experts launch Tinnitus Awareness Week (3-9 February 2014)

03 February 2014

Health Care

When Brit Pop legend Noel Gallagher revealed last year that he suffers from an irritating whine in his ear, for once he wasn’t sparking yet another row with his brother, Liam. The former Oasis guitarist and frontman has tinnitus, an occupational hazard for many musicians but also a condition that affects one in ten of the UK population at some point in their lives.

To mark national Tinnitus Awareness Week, experts from Southend University Hospital are aiming to dispel some of the myths surrounding the condition and offer both support and practical advice to help cope with it.

"Tinnitus doesn't just affect rock stars,"says Southend Hospital's Chief Hearing Therapist, Alison Dromgoole."People who work with noise, such as factory and construction workers, members of the Armed Forces are all at risk. There are many reasons apart from noise that can trigger tinnitus."

Tinnitus, which is derived from the Latin for 'ringing,' is neither a disease nor an illness but is created by an individual's own auditory pathways. Ringing, buzzing, humming or whistling sounds can be heard in one or both ears and can be experienced as either a single tone or a composition of sounds.

"It's something that's always been around,"says Alison."The Romans defined it and the Greeks wrote about it but it has largely taken until now for people in Britain to openly discuss tinnitus and become more aware. It can be treated, but not with tablets or an operation. Everyone is different, so for one person tinnitus is a mild annoyance, but to another it's a source of depression and anxiety However, the good news is that the vast majority of people learn to cope with it by managing and understanding their condition."

If you think you have tinnitus, Alison advises making an appointment to see your GP in the first instance.  Another useful source of information is the British Tinnitus Association website (www.tinnitus.org.uk).

"There is no easy or instant cure but we can help to make it less and less of a problem,"she assures."Just having the radio on, or some low level music playing in the background can help. As can going out and seeing friends, or doing something active. Tinnitus is often worse when you're on your own in a quiet environment. My team and I canadvise on a number of coping strategies such as relaxation techniques, sound enrichment sound generators which create soothing sounds which can alleviate the stress associated with the conditionor hearing aids if appropriate. Essentially, our message is that tinnitus doesn't have to stop you from doing whatever you want to do. It's important to remember that you can tune out of a noise, just as you can tune into it. We can all become accustomed to certain sounds, such as traffic or a clock that chimes. When we do it tends to be pushed into the background and that's where tinnitus belongs."