Tinnitus: The Noises That No-One Else Hears:

What do the American singers Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Will.i.am have in common, apart from having had successful careers? They all suffer from a condition known as “tinnitus”. According to “ranker.com”, Dylan developed it “after a lifetime playing loud music at concerts worldwide, it forced Young to stop recording for a while in the nineties and Will.i.am, a rapper, producer and actor, has announced in a Youtube video that he “doesn’t know what silence sounds like anymore”. There are many other celebrities who have this problem: The actor Steve Martin blames his on a “pistol-shooting scene” for the movie “The Three Amigos”, Barbra Streisand has suffered from it since early childhood and William Shatner believes his was the result of standing too near to the speakers when he was being filmed for his role as Captain Kirk in the Star Trek series.

The British musician, Pete Townsend, achieved fame as the lead guitarist with “The Who”, renowned for being “one of the loudest bands in rock history”. Apparently, along with tinnitus, he’s now completely deaf in one ear and has only partial hearing in the other. “Tinnitusterminator.com” has cited suggestions that the German composer Ludwig Van Beethoven may have developed the condition around 1796 “due to his habit of submerging his head in water to stay awake”. There has even been speculation that it might have contributed to the Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh cutting off his left ear: He was known to have impaired hearing, an intolerance of loud noises and to have been troubled by “the ringing and roaring in his head”.

The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) has estimated that the condition affects at least 10% of the UK population. Its counterpart in the USA (the ATA) calculates that 45 million Americans “are struggling with tinnitus” and in Germany (states the “Deutsche Tinnitus-Liga), 19 million people have had some experience of it, 2.7 million of them persistently & one million severely.

So what exactly is it? As the Daily Mail journalist, Isla Whitcroft, has noted, although the word originates from the Latin for “ringing”, the noise can be a buzz, hum or even whistle, heard in one or both ears or the middle of the head and has no obvious source. She quotes Dr Veronica Kennedy, consultant audiovestibular physician with the NHS Foundation Trust in Bolton, North-West England, as emphasizing that, for many people, when they have a “mild episode”, their brain screens it out, so they can ignore it. However, “if something happens to exacerbate it – such as exposure to prolonged loud noise – they suddenly notice it and it becomes an issue”, The condition, Whitcroft reports, can be caused by “injury to the complex auditory pathways in the ears and brain, a build-up of ear wax, infection, a perforated ear drum or a head injury”.

Thomas Goulding, a correspondent for the “Independent” has highlighted a campaign called “All Ears” launched in 2018 by three “music lovers”, Matt, Oli and John, who are convinced that the problem is often self-inflicted. They strongly recommend that any “raver” intent on going to a crowded nightclub or a rock concert should wear ear plugs, “to avoid the risk of damaging the hair cells in the inner ear”. Two of them suffer from tinnitus, so they founded “All Ears” to prevent anyone else getting it. They work with live music venues, festivals and other music organizations across the UK to promote safe listening environments.

For anyone who has or acquires the condition, observes Whitcroft, there’s no specific cure. Treatments range from relaxation techniques to sound therapy, although there is now a new invention: “A handheld ultrasound device placed behind the ear for one minute and designed to give temporary relief”. Meanwhile, a University of Nottingham survey has revealed that a third of tinnitus patients are unhappy with what they consider is their doctor’s lack of knowledge and sensitivity regarding this ailment. The BTA’s Chief Executive, David Stockdale, has complained to Whitcroft that sufferers are “either being told to learn to live with the condition or being given inaccurate information”.

The BTA advises that if the wax in your ears is not causing you any problems such as tinnitus, you should leave it alone: It keeps the ear canal lubricated and and protects the ear against dust, dirt and bacteria. If though, it starts to feel blocked, then you should either get some ear drops from your local pharmacy or, preferably, use olive oil to soften the wax. It should then come out after a few days. If not, your local surgery might remove it for you, usually by ear syringing. However, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently declared that this procedure is unsafe because it’s difficult to control the water pressure and there’s a risk it will harm the eardrum. Microsuction is now the recommended alternative method – but the NHS doesn’t usually provide this service, so you’ll have to have pay between £65 – £85 to have it done at a private clinic.

* TINNITUS WEEK 2019 will be from Monday 4th February to Sunday 10th February.*

 

Filed under: Healthcare | Posted on January 28th, 2019 by Colin D Gordon

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