If you’ve ever left a loud pub or concert and had that high-pitched ringing in your ears for an hour or two, you’ll know it’s a bit unpleasant.
But unless you’ve had that high-pitched ringing in your ears for weeks, months, even years, you have no idea what unpleasant really is.
Good Morning Britain presenter Susanna Reid admitted that when she was first diagnosed 10-years ago she feared she’d never hear silence again.
“When I first started hearing it, which is probably about 10 years ago, I became quite distressed that I would never hear silence again,” she told viewers.
“Tinnitus can be a torturous condition,” says Paul Breckell, chief executive of the UK’s largest hearing loss charity, Action on Hearing Loss.
And with Tinnitus Awareness Week (February 8 - 14) around the corner, it’s worth remembering that it is a common condition.
So what exactly is it they’re all suffering?
Basically, tinnitus is a medical term to describe the perception of noise either in one ear, both ears or in the head, when there is no corresponding external sound, ranging from a light buzzing to a constant roar in the ears and head.
Most people with tinnitus describe it as a “ringing” sound. But the sounds heard can vary from person to person, and you may hear it as:
See your GP if you’re concerned.
There are two types of tinnitus
The condition is classed into subjective and objective tinnitus. The former is the most common type, where the sounds are only heard by the person who has tinnitus, and is usually linked to problems affecting the hearing pathway.
Objective tinnitus, however, is when the tinnitus sounds can be heard by other people – for example if a doctor is listening through a stethoscope placed near your ear. This, much rarer, form is usually a physical problem producing the sound, such as the narrowing of ear blood vessels.
Who is most at risk?
Action on Hearing Loss says around four million young people are at risk of hearing damage from amplified music, and approximately six million people in the UK have experienced mild tinnitus – ringing, whistling, humming or buzzing in the head or ears – all of the time.
For at least 600,000 people the effect of tinnitus on their lives is classed as severe, and there are many more who have tinnitus but do not know what it is or how to manage it.
And how do you manage it?
Unfortunately, there is no real cure for tinnitus, but don’t despair – no cure doesn’t mean no coping.
Tinnitus can have a substantial negative impact on a person’s mental health, relationships and ability to sleep, concentrate, and work, and Action for Hearing Loss suggests dealing with this through methods ranging from counselling, clinical psychology and cognitive behavioural therapy to complementary therapies.
Do you suffer from tinnitus? Share your story in the Comments.