This week, February the 6th to 12th, is Tinnitus awareness week, aiming to raise GP’s awareness and to provoke the discussion of this wide spread condition. Described as the ‘sensation of hearing a sound in the absence of any external sound” – British Tinnitus Association, the sound can be heard in one or both of the ears and can be extremely disruptive. 30% of people will experience tinnitus at some point in their lives, but only 10% will experience tinnitus permanently.
Tinnitus is not a disease or illness, but is caused by a change mentally or physically, and can be triggered from an ear infection to a TBI (traumatic brain injury). 1 in 10 tinnitus sufferers have suffered a head injury previous to the onset. Either of these cause a change in the transmission of hearing information to the brain, usually a lack of, causing the brain to attempt to acquire more information from the ears. It is this extra information that is tinnitus, therefore tinnitus is activity of the brain not the ears, as it previously was thought to be.
A rare form of tinnitus found in those suffering from hearing loss who have an interest or ability with music, as musical tinnitus or musical hallucination (MH). The tinnitus seems like a familiar song that sounds exactly as it did before the decrease in hearing ability. MH is more common in those who also have epilepsy or Alzheimer’s disease, but it has been linked to the use of certain medication and brain tumours. It is often a concern to those that suffer and those around them that MH is psychosomatic, however this is extremely rarely the cause, with the only link proven to be with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
Tinnitus often fades, and those that permanently experience it learn to treat it as background noise and can live completely undisrupted lives. Treatment is available, such as Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and TRT. TRT, or tinnitus retraining therapy, is the use of particular levels of sound to reduce the prioritisation of the tinnitus noise, with the treatment of tinnitus known as habituation. Elements of this method are used by many professionals however as a stand-alone therapy, its effectiveness is yet to be proven.
By this point, you may be thinking, how does this affect me, as a younger individual or one that has no hearing problems at all, however the BTA
suggest you “Plug-em”. A new prevention campaign aimed at to raise awareness that tinnitus can be prevented by the protection of our very delicate ears.
For more information on tinnitus, how you can support BTA and the “Plug-em” campaign visit the BTA website: https://www.tinnitus.org.uk