Tinnitus Awareness Week: Living with tinnitus & protecting your ears

One Direction - Party in the Park, Leeds

For me, New Year’s Eve wasn’t just the start of 2013… it was also my tinniversary.

If you don’t know what a tinniversary is (and why would you? I just made it up), it’s one year since I developed tinnitus – the perception of sound in the absence of any corresponding external sound, or put simply, ringing in the ears.

This ringing can be present in both ears, just one ear, or you can even have a different ringing sound in each ear, which is what I have, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Tinnitus can affect people of all ages. It is estimated that about 10% of the population have it all the time, with 1% having their quality of life affected by it. My tinnitus is mild, so even though it’s there all the time, I’ll only usually hear it if I’m an in a silent room, and unless I’m tired, stressed or have a cold, most of the time I won’t notice it. It’s like being in a room with a ticking clock – most of the time you won’t be aware of it, but should you pick up on it that ticking will drive you crazy.

That’s why it’s important to protect your ears. You may get two ears, but you should listen to them and not take any risks. Have you noticed how, after you attend a loud gig, your ears will ring for a few hours afterwards? That’s your ears screaming at you, asking “why didn’t you protect me?”

It really isn’t difficult – if you attend a lot of gigs, just pick up a pair of earplugs (which are cheap enough on Amazon) and pop them in when the music starts. You don’t need any big, dorky ear protectors, the plugs work just as well. Another way to protect your ears is to make sure you listen to your iPod at a reasonable volume.

If you suffer from tinnitus, you’re in good company – lots of celebrities suffer too. Dappy (of N-Dubz fame) has tinnitus, and can only get to sleep by listening to rain music which drowns it out, actors William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy both developed tinnitus after a loud explosion on the Star Trek set, as well as Barbra Streisand, Bono, Neve Campbell, Thom Yorke, Anthony Kiedis, Morgan Fairchild, Gerard Butler, Huey Lewis, Joey Jordison, KT Tunstall, Paul Gilbert, Sylvester Stallone, Ozzy Osbourne, and Will.i.am who are also said to be sufferers. Even One Direction’s Louis Tomlinson has tinnitus, after suffering hearing damage which he put down to the volume of his enthusiastic fans.

The best way to deal with mild tinnitus is by blocking out the sound when you notice it, like Dappy does with his rain music. You don’t need special music or speakers, even listening to the radio at a low volume can be enough to do the trick.

For more information on tinnitus, visit the British Tinnitus Association website by clicking here, or read on to find out more about what you can do to manage tinnitus.

There may not be a cure for tinnitus, but it’s a common myth that there’s nothing you can do about it.

Five steps to tackling tinnitus:
1. Find out the truth about tinnitus
Do you know what tinnitus is and what causes it? Arming yourself with the facts is the first step to understanding the condition and getting help. Click here.
2. Download tinnitus facts
Not sure where to start with treating your tinnitus? Download a factsheets for the answers. It’s also a great resource to pass on to a friend or family member. Click here.
3. Call a helpline
Action On Hearing Loss have a dedicated tinnitus helpline. Trained advisors are available to answer your queries and offer support. Call free on 0808 808 6666.
4. Read an expert opinion
Dr Stephen Nagler is one of the world’s foremost tinnitus experts. Read his open letter to tinnitus sufferers, and let him help you manage your tinnitus. Click here.
5. Join a tinnitus forum
You know what they say about a problem shared… Action On Hearing Loss have a discussion forum that lets people with tinnitus support each other and share tips and advice. Click here.

The above info is courtesy of the lovely people at Action On Hearing Loss.