While we would all book an eye test if we suddenly had blurry vision, we don’t always have the same concern for our ears. Despite the impact tinnitus can have, many people don’t do anything about a constant ringing sensation they experience. That is why Specsavers divisional audiology lead across Central and Greater London, Rob Williams is encouraging Londoners to look after their hearing this Tinnitus Awareness Week (February 3-9).
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) is the perception of noises in the ear that sound as if they’re internal, rather than coming from an outside source. While it isn’t a condition itself, it is often a symptom of something underlying such as age-related hearing loss, an ear injury or even a circulatory system disorder. Mr Williams says: ‘Tinnitus is very common and can occur at any age. Although it is more common in people who have a hearing loss or other ear problems it can also occur in people who don’t suffer from hearing loss, particularly if they don’t look after their hearing.’
What are the symptoms?
The main sensation is often a ringing sound in the ear. However, as Mr Williams explains: ‘Other sounds that can be heard include buzzing, whistling, humming, hissing and grinding. It can be a constant sound or occasional and the volume may vary.’
Can it be prevented?
Mr Williams continues: ‘People who work with loud noises should always make sure they are wearing hearing protection, especially those who work with loud music, loud machinery and those who are exposed to loud bangs or go clubbing frequently. ‘You also need to exercise caution when you’re wearing your headphones too, as you could be at risk of developing tinnitus. To stay safe you should never listen to your music above 60% volume and you should also give your ears a break every hour too.’
What can be done?
If you experience any symptoms, Mr Williams recommends making an appointment with your local Specsavers. He says: ‘Your audiologist will be able to look in your ears and make sure there are no signs of excess wax or infection. There may be a possibility that you will need to be referred on to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
‘While there is currently no cure for tinnitus, there are a number of measures you can take to make life more bearable. Hearing aids can be helpful particularly for those who already have some hearing loss and cognitive behavioural therapy can help too. Another thing that could prove to be helpful is the use of background noise in quiet situations. This could include sounds such as music, the radio or natural sounds in the environment.’
If you have any concerns about your hearing make an appointment to see your local Specsavers audiologist.