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8 February 2022 | Comment | Article by Francesca Bamsey

Tinnitus Awareness Week 2022: 7 – 13 February 2022

This week is Tinnitus Awareness Week which takes place between 7 and 13 February 2022. The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) theme this year is ‘The Sound of Science – The Urgent need for a Tinnitus Biobank’.

What is a Tinnitus Biobank?

The BTA are calling for the establishment of a Tinnitus Biobank in the hope that we can one day find a cause for this debilitating condition. A biobank is a large-scale database that contains the health information of several participants. This information is accessible to researchers to use when undertaking research into various health conditions.

A Tinnitus Biobank would also allow researchers ‘to identify underlying causes, recognise different tinnitus subtypes and uncover the biomarkers that would allow tinnitus, and the impact of treatments, to be objectively measured’.

In the UK, tinnitus related research currently receives 40 x less funding than similar conditions. Investing just £4m in a tinnitus biobank would lead us one step closer to finding a cure.

You can find out more about the BTA’s initiative here: Tinnitus Biobank | British Tinnitus Association

Tinnitus in the News

In recent news, Great British Breakfast Presenter, Kirsty Gallacher has spoken out about her struggle with tinnitus, which has occurred as a symptom of a small benign tumour in her inner ear canal. Speaking on Loose Women she describes the persistent buzzing and crackling noises she is faced with on a daily basis. In particular, she draws on the impact this has had on her sleeping pattern:

“If you focus on the noise and it’s silent, I often can’t get back to sleep for two more hours. So actually, I can’t function like that, as a single working mum, doing a breakfast show”

Whilst Kirsty’s tinnitus symptoms are not a direct consequence of exposure to excessive noise, noise damage can be a contributing factor to tinnitus, which may present occasionally or constantly throughout a person’s life.

Here at Hugh James, we have been looking into the life-changing condition that many of our military clients suffer from.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the hearing of a sound when there is no external noise present. It usually takes the form of a ringing, buzzing, whooshing, humming or a whistling noise that can be constant or intermittent.

What are the causes of Tinnitus?

According to the British Tinnitus Association (BTA), the condition affects 1 in 8 people in the UK. Although the exact cause of the condition is not known, possible causes include, but are not limited to, head injuries, ear infections and adverse reactions to medication.

Similarly, there is a strong causal link between exposure to loud noise and tinnitus.

Military Related Tinnitus

Military personnel are often exposed to noise levels that are likely to be much louder than sounds heard in day-to-day life. At Hugh James we see many veterans and serving personnel from all 3 services who say they are struggling with hearing loss and tinnitus due to exposure to excessive noise, often without any or any adequate hearing protection.

If you are struggling with the effects of tinnitus, then it is important that you discuss this with your GP. They may be able to refer you for therapy although NHS waiting lists may be lengthy. If you think you may have been exposed to excessive levels of noise whilst serving in the military, it may also be worth a call to Hugh James.

How can Hugh James help you?

Our military team can help you to achieve compensation for your tinnitus and will also seek to claim the cost of any treatment and equipment you require to bring your tinnitus symptoms under control.

What are the impacts of Tinnitus?

Tinnitus impacts people in different ways. Some individuals may only experience tinnitus on the odd occasion, and find it has little impact to their day-to-day life. However, for others it can be debilitating. It can cause a negative impact to individuals mental health and significantly reduce one’s quality of life.

What are the treatments for Tinnitus?

Hearing Aid UK suggest that only 8% of those that suffer from tinnitus seek support or treatment. This may be linked to the fact that tinnitus is a subjective condition that only the person suffering from it can hear, as such it can be difficult for others to understand or relate to.

Sufferers often find it disheartening to learn that there is currently no cure for tinnitus. However, there are several treatments out there to help individuals manage their symptoms and lessen the impact that the tinnitus has on daily life.

  • Masking the Noise

One of the most common methods of dealing with tinnitus is to use other sounds to mask the noise of the tinnitus. Tinnitus usually seems loudest in a quiet environment. It isn’t unusual for a tinnitus sufferer to take a couple of hours to drop off to sleep. However, the noise of tinnitus often doesn’t seem so loud when there is background noise. Many of our existing clients sleep with the television on or with music playing to help them drop off if they suffer with tinnitus. However, this isn’t ideal when a partner is involved, and this can lead to arguments at bedtime. Some of our clients tell us they sleep separately from their partner because of the effect the tinnitus is having on their sleep. This in turn may impact on relationships.

  • Tinnitus Specific Hearing Aids

Even when hearing loss isn’t really noticed, the medical experts we go to tell us a hearing aid can be of benefit to someone with tinnitus. This is because advanced hearing aids can have channels which generate low level white noise that can mask the noise of the tinnitus. This can be used at bedtime as an alternative to having to sleep with the television or the radio on. Usually, hearing aids with these advanced features aren’t accessible on the NHS. Unfortunately, these types of aids can cost around £4,000 – £5,000 per pair which can place them out of reach for many veterans.

  • Tinnitus Retraining Therapy

For some of our military clients, professional help is needed to deal with problematic tinnitus. There are many different types of treatment for tinnitus. What works for some people won’t work for others so there will likely be a period of trial and error whilst you experiment to discover what works for you. One of the more popular therapies widely used across the NHS is Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (‘TRT’). TRT is a type of counselling which can assist some suffers with their symptoms of tinnitus. It helps sufferers to cope with their tinnitus on a conscious and subconscious level. For example, when it just starts raining you might notice the sound of the raindrops falling. However, after a while you simply block out the noise and it leaves your mind. This is what TRT attempts to achieve. The therapy is also combined with deep relaxation exercises and stress management in order to enhance coping mechanisms. The duration and success of the therapy does vary from person to person. There are other treatments out there that may work better for some.

Author bio

Francesca Bamsey joined Hugh James in February 2013. Francesca works in the Claimant Litigation Division specialising in industrial injury claims such as hearing loss claims.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.

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