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7 Tinnitus myth-busters: sorting out the fact from the fiction

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7 Tinnitus myth-busters: sorting out the fact from the fiction

Tinnitus – noise heard in the ears or the head - is far more common than most people think. During the 1950s a series of experiments put 80 people with normal hearing in a soundproofed room for five minutes; 94 per cent experienced hearing sounds such as humming, buzzing or ringing, although none had previously complained of tinnitus.

Over 60 years later and scientists are still struggling to understand this frustrating condition. No win no fee solicitors Claims Direct can help people who suffer tinnitus as a result of working conditions make a personal injury claim and receive the compensation they need and deserve.

Claims Direct can also help people with rehabilitation and put them in touch with support groups. But in terms of researching tinnitus, it is excellent organisations such as Deafness Research UK which are leading the fight to find out more about treating tinnitus.

Andrew Goodwin, an Outreach Advisor for Deafness Research, offers advice to people who want to know more about their hearing loss and assists people to find out what help exists. He is well aware of the myths surrounding tinnitus – myths which can hinder sufferers' attempt to get better.

Myth 1: Only old people suffer from tinnitus

Andrew Goodwin:This perception is entirely wrong. You can suffer tinnitus at any age. There is no evidence that certain types of people get it more than any others. Tinnitus seems unrelated to age, gender or race.

Myth 2: If I get tinnitus I will realise it straight away

AG: Frustratingly, there are so many people out there who have Tinnitus and are not aware they have a recognised condition. People will have ringing in their ears and feel that they are the only one who has it as it is so rarely talked about in the media.

Myth 3: I don't listen to loud music and don't have a noisy job so I won't get tinnitus

AG: It is true that one type of tinnitus is caused by exposure to loud noise over time, so occupations such as steelworker or anyone in the nightclub industry is at risk. However, another type of tinnitus seems to be activated by stress, so any stressful job, such as stockbroker, lawyer or teacher, could be a factor in causing tinnitus. At the moment, not enough is known about tinnitus to be able to say with absolute certainty what the causes are. What we do know for certain is that stress and noise are two key factors. The strong link between tinnitus and stress means that most treatments will start with relaxation treatments.

Myth 4: The papers say there is a cure so there is no need to worry

AG: There are NO cures for Tinnitus at the moment. You may have read of pills containing Ginkgo Biloba supposedly being a cure. We have funded research into this and have found, through double-blind testing, (where both the dispensers and the testers don't know if they have received the Ginkgo Biloba or a placebo) that it has no discernible effect on the tinnitus.

Myth 5: I'll cut out caffeine and the problem will be sorted!

AG: It used to be thought that reducing the caffeine in your diet would help, but again, proper research has proven that to be false. In fact, if you were to cut out caffeine too drastically, the caffeine withdrawal would make the tinnitus worse! Likewise, other research that has been completed recently has proved that changing your diet will have little impact on the tinnitus.

Myth 6: It is best to just do nothing about the tinnitus as it will probably just go away of its own accord

AG: The vast majority of people leave it and never even talk about it with friends or relations. It is only if it becomes a serious issue, affecting sleep patterns and the ability to communicate, do people then seek help from their doctor. In most cases, tinnitus seems to go away or is sporadic. However, in the cases where people seek help, it rarely goes away; it just becomes more manageable. However, as with any other medical condition, the sooner you seek help the better. We do hear of distressing cases where people have committed suicide because they were unaware of the help that is available.

Myth 7: If you have tinnitus, there is little hope of easing the symptoms

AG: There definitely are a few treatments that can have a positive effect, one is Tinnitus Retraining Therapy. In this instance, a box will be tuned with the sound of the patient's specific tinnitus and it will be played to them for between five and ten minutes each day. The idea behind this is that the tinnitus excites the fight or flee response in us as it is a sound we cannot identify, so our brain doesn't know if it is a threat or not. So, by playing this sound on a regular basis, the brain gets used to it and identifies it as an external source, becomes less threatened by it and so pays less attention to it. The tinnitus never goes away but it becomes far more manageable.

'You're not alone'

Andrew is keen to reassure tinnitus sufferers that there are positive steps they can take to cope with tinnitus.

He said: "Things have improved enormously over the last few years, thanks mainly to the huge amount of research that Deafness Research UK has funded. Nowadays, most GP's will know that Tinnitus is not fictional and is a very real, very distressing condition. This is also reassuring as, if you start suffering symptoms associated with tinnitus, you should always visit a GP first. If needed, they can refer to you a Tinnitus Specialist for help.

The most important thing to realise is that there IS help out there. Download our factsheet to find out more, but there are lots of treatments that can help manage the condition. Remember most of all, you are not alone. There are Tinnitus Support groups up and down the country at which you can find out how different people have found ways of coping."

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