Tinnitus is the experience of hearing sounds in the ear, which have no external source. These can be a range of different sounds such as ringing, whooshing, humming or buzzing. For some people the sounds can be continuous and for others they may come and go.
According to the British Tinnitus Association, 30% of people experience tinnitus at some point in their lives and the number of people who live with persistent tinnitus is approximately 10%.
The causes of tinnitus are not yet fully understood but two-thirds of people who have the condition also have a hearing loss and so this may be a factor. When there is hearing loss, the amount of signals sent to the brain change and it is thought that the hearing part of the brain then tries hard to gather more information from the ear. This extra information may create sounds, which are what we experience as tinnitus.
However, not everyone with tinnitus has hearing loss and it can also be triggered by stress, exposure to loud noises and problems such as an ear infection or wax blocking the ear.
This week is Tinnitus Week and this year the British Tinnitus Association are highlighting the isolation that tinnitus can cause. A recent survey by the organisation revealed more that 60% of people with tinnitus feel isolated. If you are affected by the condition, please know that you are not alone and there is help and support out there.
Start off by talking to your GP if you think you may have tinnitus. They will check your ears and refer you to a specialist for tests and support if required.
You may like to talk to other people with the condition and in Bristol there is the Bristol Tinnitus Support Group, which meets every two months in Bradley Stoke.
For more information and advice on managing tinnitus, take a look at the British Tinnitus Association website, which has a range of excellent resources available.
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