Pete Townshend and KT Tunstall are living examples of how tinnitus has affected the lives of different generations.
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Tinnitus is noise heard in the ears or the head and can be experienced as buzzing, ringing or other sounds.
Townshend, guitarist with rock band The Who, believes his hearing loss problems date back to his band’s appearance on a 1967 television show when drummer Keith Moon arranged for his drum kit to explode as a practical joke.
Solo singer KT Tunstall believes her hearing problems began after she was seated close to the speakers at a Spice Girls concert.
Townshend has sought to address his tinnitus problems by consulting an audiologist introduced to him by fellow musician Neil Young.
Audiologists are well aware that tinnitus does not just affect rock stars – often they are the only sufferers whose condition gains much news coverage.
Crystal Rolfe is an audiology specialist whose advice informs Action on Hearing Loss. Crystal, who also works for the NHS, stresses that tinnitus can affect the lives of people far younger than 36-year-old Tunstall and far older than 66-year-old Townshend.
She said: “With younger people, tinnitus often occurs as a result of exposure to loud noise and recreational noise that you can find in a pub or a club. But all ages can be vulnerable to illnesses and middle-ear infections which canAffect tinnitus. Of course, industrial noise is another factor across all ages too.”
The audiologist’s advice for tinnitus sufferers includes:
Speaking to your GP
She said: “Speak to your GP first. If the problem is worrying you then you can be referred on to an audiologist or Ear Nose and Throat Doctor (ENT) who can examine the cause of the tinnitus in greater detail.”
Find out the cause
Crystal Rolfe said: “An audiologist can often determine whether the tinnitus is caused by wax in the ear or a middle-ear infection – treating the cause of the tinnitus is vital. Sometimes the tinnitus can be caused by high blood pressure – there are tablets which can help this.if you have hearing loss as well as tinnitus hearing aids can often be very helpful to distract you from your tinnitus sounds.”
“Relaxation techniques can be a vital first step. Suffering tinnitus can be like being caught in a vicious circle - you start suffering from tinnitus which understandably makes you stressed and this stress further aggravates the tinnitus.
Your GP can refer you to a psychologist such as a cognitive behavioural therapist or an audiologist who specialises in this, who will look at your response to tinnitus.”
“Sometimes examining methods you can use to accept living with tinnitus – habituation – is a more realistic goal than trying to make the noises go away. On a similar note, I would advise caution with the sensationalist type of ‘scientists find cure for tinnitus’ style articles – there often has not been enough research conducted into these treatments to prove if they are effective; sadly there is no known cure at the moment.”
Use common sense
“Whether you’ve got hearing problems or not, it’s always a good idea to protect your ears and just use common sense. For instance, if you’re near busy traffic will turning up your MP3 player really be a good idea just for a bit of temporary enjoyment?Its not just about how loud you are listening to the music but also how long you are listening for.. Value your hearing and look after your general health to protect your hearing.”
Don’t forget that there are people on your side!
“Here at Action on Hearing Loss, we fund research into tinnitus across the world. Obtaining funding is a constant challenge, but we’re not about to stop looking for ways to help people – we know how important this research is.
Sufferers should also draw comfort from the fact that tinnitus isn’t an illness, it’s a symptom. Tinnitus tends to be most distressing in the first year of having symptoms. After the first year, the majority of suffererslearn to cope with it and it becomes less bothersome.. The Action on Hearing Loss has advice and forums for sufferers – accessing this help is just the click of a mouse away.”