Cambridge clinic helps let tinnitus sufferers know that they aren't alone
This week (February 4-10) is Tinnitus Week, and angli-EAR Hearing in Great Shelford are proud supporters.
An annual fixture on the calendar now for more than 20 years, the awareness week, promoted by the British Tinnitus Association (BTA), is this year adopting the theme of 'tinnitus and isolation', highlighting the feeling of isolation that sufferers often report due to their condition.
There will be a range of activities across social media to promote awareness of tinnitus and the support and advice available, as well as media interviews given by experts, including audiologist Trevor Chapman from angli-EAR.
Tinnitus is the medical term for the perception of sound when no external sound is present, and there are two types: subjective or objective.
Subjective tinnitus is most common and can only be heard by the person with the condition. Objective tinnitus can be heard by the person with tinnitus and externally by others, but is quite rare.
Sarah Chapman of angli-EAR Hearing, corporate members of the British Tinnitus Association, said: "This year the focus is on the impact of tinnitus on isolation, and getting across the message that you are not alone and that there are people out there who are able to help."
A number of things are happening this week nationwide. "They're doing a lot of publicity, in terms of television appearances and things like that," said Sarah.
"The BTA also have a helpline that people can phone for help, and that's open overnight for the first time. They're doing podcasts about tinnitus, how tinnitus can affect your relationships...
"There's a huge amount going on on social media, more about social isolation - so it's really about letting people know that there is support out there.
"There's a focus on tinnitus groups - there are lots and lots of tinnitus groups throughout the UK where people can go and meet others who have the condition."
Tinnitus can feel very isolating; it’s not a visible illness and the tinnitus noise is unique to the person who hears it. Tinnitus noise can be buzzing, hissing, humming, whistling, clicking, chirping, roaring, 'crickets' or beeping.
Some people report their tinnitus changes pitch and/or volume on a routine basis. Tinnitus can occur in one or both ears or in the head. It can be intermittent or it can be constant.
This constant, potentially changing noise can be energy-draining and can make the sufferer feel anxious, irritable or depressed. Although there is no cure for the condition, which can even lead to suicide, there is a great deal of treatment available.
"The treatment depends very much on the type of noise that the person with tinnitus has," explained Sarah. "It's about understanding what the underlying cause of it is.
"It could be from hearing loss from noise exposure, it could be hearing loss over a period of time. It could be from their medication - tinnitus can generate from different medication that people are taking - but it could also be from injury. But actually, in about 40 per cent of cases, the cause is unknown.
"In terms of treatment, there's been a lot of focus on cognitive behaviour therapy recently, so retraining your brain about not constantly looking for that noise of tinnitus, dealing with some of the underlying issues caused by stress - as it could be that that's having an impact on it as well."
Sarah added: "It's really about talking to somebody about what is the cause of your tinnitus, and then looking at what some of the answers and solutions might be for treating that.
"Unfortunately, there's not a magic pill, which would be great, but there are definitely things that can be done to help.
"What we're doing is we're offering people information, we're offering them help so that it doesn't worry them as much."
On Monday (February 4), angli-EAR audiologist Trevor Chapman was on the Jeremy Sallis show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire talking about solutions for tinnitus. He was on Cambridge 105 yesterday (Wednesday), and was on Cambridge TV last week.
angli-EAR are offering free tinnitus assessments until the end of March. For more information, visit angliearhearing.co.uk.
For more on tinnitus, go to tinnitus.org.uk.