Tinnitus is often described as ‘ringing in the ears’ - the perception of sound in the head or ears when no external sound is present. It can be a constant sound or noise, or can occur intermittently for several minutes to hours at a time, before stopping until the next episode.
The condition affects up to 275,000 people in Northern Ireland and at least 7000 people are affected severely, which significantly impacts on their ability to lead a normal life.
Action on Hearing Loss research shows that many people do not get the help they need when they first attend their GP with the problem, often being told that since there is no cure, they will have to learn to live with the noise. Negative messages at diagnosis and delays in receiving support can lead to increased anxiety and / or depression for the person with tinnitus. Many people are greatly distressed by the effects of tinnitus and can develop mental health problems as a result.
During Tinnitus Week 2018 the charity is urging GPs to learn more about the help and treatments that are available for people with tinnitus, including sound and light therapies, relaxation techniques, hearing aids and sound maskers. Providing information and signposting to sources of help can empower people with tinnitus to manage their condition more successfully.
Jackie White, Northern Ireland Director of Action on Hearing Loss says, “While we offer a specialist support service for people distressed by the noise of tinnitus, they often come to us after receiving little support from their GP. We would encourage GPs to find out more about what can be done to relieve the symptoms of tinnitus and to give anyone presenting at their practice a positive message that something can be done to help. The knowledge that a person with tinnitus can take control of the noise and is not powerless can change the rest of their lives.”
Action on Hearing Loss is working with the British Tinnitus Association and the Health and Social Care Board to develop an e-learning resource for GPs to provide guidance on how to treat and support people with tinnitus. This resource will be made available later in 2018.
The charity also provides specialist one to one support, training courses, information and equipment for people with tinnitus.
Action on Hearing Loss will be offering a FREE drop in demonstration day at Harvester House, 4-8 Adelaide Street, Belfast on Thursday 8th February from 11:00am–2:00pm, where the public can sample some of the specialist equipment available to treat tinnitus and access information on how to manage the condition.
The charity is also holding three Tinnitus Awareness Events during the week where people can learn about the causes of tinnitus, as well as therapies and treatments available to help minimise the effects. These are taking place in Belfast and Newry on Wednesday 7th February and Coleraine on Friday 9th February.