TINNITUS NEWS DAILY - Living With Tinnitus
Rx for Readers: Living in an Unsterile World
I read on the Internet, in fact from - of all places,Dubai - that the handles of supermarket carts have more dangerous viruses and bacteria than computer keyboards,stair railings and even toilet seats, as they are almost never cleaned. Is this a cause of worry? Should one disinfect these with alcohol gel before use in stores to avoid the flu and other infections?
- A.L., Rehovot
Dr. Paul Slater, the Health Ministry's chief epidemiologist, replies:
This is a typical alarmist presentation showing that microorganisms can be found on all sorts of surfaces in our unsterile world. I have seen similar "studies" concerning the nondisposable part of doctors' otoscopes (optical devices to examine the middle and inner ear), stethoscopes and neckties and even operating room furniture and fixtures. It all means very little unless it can be shown that exposure to the non-sterile surfaces or objects actually causes disease. This would require serious research, with informed consent,study and control groups and follow-up of exposed and unexposed people for the appearance of defined illnesses within a set period of time. Naturally, I favor washing your hands with soap and warm water from time to time, as I recommend that doctors and nurses wash or disinfect their hands between patients. And certainly, public toilets should be kept as clean as possible. But mostly for aesthetic reasons. "Disinfect" ashopping cart handle? Not I.
I have two healthy toddlers aged 13 months and three years. At our well-baby (Tipat Halav) clinic, I was told that if we leave a cold-mist vaporizer on at home many hours of the day during the winter, it would prevent them from getting colds or respiratory infections. Is this true? I wonder whether so much humidity in the air would cause black fungus on walls that could be dangerous. Is humidifying the home in winter recommended? If so, should a window be open to prevent fungus? Would a wet towel on a hot-water radiator be better?
- I.M., Petah Tikva
Prof. David Branski, chief of pediatrics at both HadassahUniversity Medical Centers, and Dr. Orna Blondheim, a veteran pediatrician who is director-general ofEmekMedicalCenter in Afula, commented similarly to this query:
Leaving a cold-mist (or hot-mist) vaporizer on at home many hours of the day during the winter will not prevent them from getting colds or respiratory infections. Undoubtedly, the habit will raise your electricity bill, and too much humidity in the house could produceblack mold on the walls, which if not quickly removed and inhaled can be dangerous, especially to children.
Using a vaporizer in a child's room when he or she already suffers from a stuffy nose would help. In any case, opening a window to fresh air daily even without a vaporizer is important during the winter as it dilutes the concentration of pathogens in the air at home and at work and reduces the risk that occupants will get viral infections.
I am a 56-year-old man who has been suffering from tinnitus - chronic ringing of the ears - for about a decade. My ear-nose-and-throat (ENT) specialist thinks it was probably caused by my playing with a loud jazz band during my youth. In any case, I always search the Web for possible treatments or cures, and I found thatThomasJeffersonHospital in theUS was permitted by the USFood and Drug Administration to offer something called "Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment." It is claimed to interact with, interrupt and desensitize tinnitus by delivering a neural stimulus customized for each patient and embedded in "clinically modified" music. Has this really been shown effective in eliminating tinnitus or at least making it possible to live with it? And if so, is the "treatment" available inIsrael?
- F.T., Tel Aviv
Dr. Ronen Peretz, a senior ENT specialist at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center, and Haya Levi, director of theaudiology center at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem, comment:
The device may be sold inIsrael. But unfortunately there is still no breakthroughtreatment for tinnitus; there are some ways that may attenuate the ringing for some patients. Regarding claims of "new treatments," experts have to be very careful and need more results from research before recommending them. There have been claims that electrical stimulation of the ear provided very good improvement, but it benefited only a few patients.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, TheJerusalem Post, POB 81,Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or e-mail it to email@example.com, giving your initials, age and residence.
I'm plagued by a 'hum' that no one else hears
By Marianne Power
Last updated at 8:47 AM on 27th October 2009
Frustrated: 'The Hum' victim, retired postwoman Helen Green
Helen Green first noticed the sound when lying in the bath. It was a low humming, as if a car engine had been left running.
At first she simply dismissed it. She and her husband, Richard, had just moved into a new bungalow near Ropley, Hampshire, and were having building work done.
She assumed the sound was something to do with the renovations. But as the days - then months - passed, the noise remained.
'Every day, from morning to night, I could hear it,' says Helen, a 59-year-old retired postwoman. 'It has a rhythm to it, going up and down, louder and softer. I could feel it, too - the vibrations were going through my body.'
Before long Helen says this low drone - which she only heard at home - became a kind of a torture.
'It was as upsetting as someone pulling finger nails down a chalk board,' she says.
'I couldn't sleep or think. I turned into a monster. I hated my husband, I hated everybody. Some days I'd have to get in the car and drive. I'd drive around for hours to escape. But you had to come back eventually.'
Most disturbing was the fact that Helen's husband couldn't hear the noise and neither could friends or family who visited.
The management of tinnitus involves treating any underlying disorders or abnormalities (see 'Tinnitus causes' above) as well as addressing the tinnitus itself. Although there is no cure for most cases of chronic tinnitus, there are ways to manage the condition.
Treatment of underlying problems
Hearing loss — Hearing aids may improve tinnitus symptoms in people with age-related hearing loss. Hearing aids work by making outside sounds clearer and louder, which may cause the tinnitus noise to be less noticeable. People with other causes of hearing loss may benefit from surgery to the outer or middle ear.
Cochlear implants are devices that are implanted in the inner ear and use electrical stimulation to help improve hearing. They may be recommended for adults or children with severe to profound hearing loss who do not benefit from hearing aids. These implants may help relieve tinnitus in some cases; however, they are only available in selected cases and a full evaluation is required before consideration.
In patients with auditory system damage due to use of medication, stopping the medication may improve tinnitus and prevent hearing loss from worsening. Patients should consult with a healthcare provider before starting or stopping any medications.
Depression — Depression is common in people with tinnitus. Safe and effective treatments for depression are available and antidepressant medications may improve the symptoms of tinnitus in some people. Antidepressants can also improve a person's ability to cope with the problem. (See "Patient information: Depression in adults" and "Patient information: Depression treatment options for adults".)
Insomnia — People who have difficulty sleeping as a result of tinnitus may be treated with medications and/or behavior changes to improve sleep. (See "Patient information: Insomnia treatments".)
Behavioral therapies — A number of behavioral therapies can help a person to live with chronic tinnitus.
Tinnitus retraining therapy — Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) involves retraining the subconscious part of the auditory system to accept the sounds associated with tinnitus as normal, natural sounds rather than annoying sounds . The goal is for the person to become unaware of their tinnitus unless they consciously choose to focus on it.
TRT is performed by experts in a tinnitus center; it includes counseling as well as the use of a wearable device that emits low-level noise and environmental sounds. Although TRT has demonstrated short-term success in many tinnitus sufferers, it requires a commitment to the program; the noise-generating device may need to be worn for one to two years.
Masking — Masking devices resemble hearing aids and produce low-level sounds, which help to reduce or eliminate the tinnitus noise in some patients . Masking does not relieve tinnitus in all patients. Some people report a worsening of their tinnitus with masking. Those who do experience relief typically find that tinnitus returns after the masking device is removed.
Patients can also achieve a lesser degree of masking by listening to quiet music or creating low background noise with a radio on low volume, a fan, a white noise machine, or pillow speakers. This may be especially helpful for people with tinnitus that is bothersome in quiet environments.
Biofeedback and stress reduction — Biofeedback is a relaxation technique that teaches a person to control certain body functions, such as heart and breathing rate. Biofeedback may help people to manage tinnitus-related distress by changing their reaction to it. Some people experience relief of tinnitus symptoms once they are able to stop thinking of their tinnitus as bothersome or stressful .
Cognitive behavioral therapy — The goal of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is to teach patients to manage their psychological responses to tinnitus. It involves using coping strategies, distraction skills, and relaxation techniques. Studies suggest that CBT may help to improve quality of life in tinnitus sufferers .
Other therapies — A number of other types of treatments for tinnitus have been studied, although none have been found to reliably be more effective than placebo. Nevertheless, many tinnitus support groups have members who are helped by these treatments. Individual patients who respond may be experiencing a true benefit.
- Electrical stimulation — Electrical stimulation of certain parts of the inner ear can be accomplished by placing electrodes on the skin or using acupuncture needles (see below). There are different modes of delivering electrical stimulation, depending on the patient's situation and other factors, such as whether hearing loss is present.
- Acupuncture — Acupuncture involves inserting hair-thin, metal needles into the skin at specific points on the body. It causes little to no pain. Acupuncture may be used alone or in combination with electric stimulation.
- Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) — During repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), a powerful magnetic field is used to stimulate the brain.
- Herbal remedies — Combinations of herbs (also called botanicals) are often promoted as treatments for medical problems. Herbal medicines may come in the form of a powder, liquid, or pill. Ginkgo biloba and melatonin have both been studied for use in treating tinnitus.
- Vitamins and minerals — Vitamins and minerals that have been studied for treatment of tinnitus and inner-ear health include niacin (a B vitamin), zinc, and copper.
Every day, from morning to night, I could hear it'
'They thought I was losing it; sometimes I even agreed with them,' says Helen.
'I'd spend days with my ear up to the fridge or the boiler trying to find the source. I tried to block it out with earplugs - I even walked around with aluminium foil around my head. Nothing worked.'
As bizarre as it might sound, Helen's case is far from unique. Thousands of people are plagued by what is, effectively, a supersensitivity to low frequency sounds - sounds at the lower limit of normal human hearing.
High frequency sounds are high-pitched noises such as ringing and whistling.
Low frequency sounds are low-pitched hums or drones produced by everything from factories, machinery and transport to household items such as fridges and boilers. They even come from the sea.
Known as 'The Hum', this sensitivity can, in extreme cases, result in headaches, depression and even, in one instance, suicide.
Localised: 'The hum' vanished as soon as Helen gets to the end of the road outside her house (file picture)
It's estimated that between 20 and 30per cent of the population suffer from some sort of noise sensitivity and at least 10,000 people now hear The Hum.
'What people are experiencing is real,' says Dr Geoff Leventhall, an expert in noise, vibration and acoustics and author of a Department of Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs (Defra) report on low-frequency noise.
'The effects can be very upsetting. It causes stress and sleeplessness, and affects relationships and your ability to work.'
In about a third of cases the specific cause of the noise can be identified.
'It may be a fridge in the apartment above or a piece of heavy machinery at a nearby factory that is causing the disturbance,' Dr Leventhall says. 'If you can find the source you can usually deal with it.'
The fridge can be put up on mountings to reduce the vibrations or, if the sounds are industrial, there are silencers that factories can adopt if the problem is affecting a wide number of people, he explains.
'I couldn't sleep or think. I turned into a monster. I hated my husband, I hated everybody'
Yet, more often than not, no external noise can be identified. 'People spend years trying to track down the noise,' says Dr Leventhall.
'In many cases environmental health can't measure the sound because it's at too low a frequency for their recording equipment and this, combined with partners or family being unable to hear anything themselves, leaves people thinking they're going mad.'
So why can some people hear the noise while others can't? It could be that some people are actually experiencing tinnitus, says Crystal Rolfe, an audiology specialist for the Royal National Institute for the Deaf.
'This is a distressing condition which affects one in ten Britons at some point in their lives - they experience a constant hissing or ringing noise in the ear without any obvious causes. It can be hard to tell the difference,' she says.
'If the noise is everywhere, it's probably tinnitus. If it goes when you're in certain areas, the problem could be external.'
Her saviour: Listening to the shopping channel on low volume distracts Helen from the noise (file picture)
The fact that the sound disappeared when she left home convinced Helen it wasn't tinnitus or caused by anything else inside her head. 'The noise was localised to the house - as soon as I got to the bottom of our road, it went.'
It may be that some people are just more sensitive to certain noises. In particular, as we get older many of us lose our ability to hear high and mid-frequency sounds, and as a result we hear low-frequency sounds better. There is also a theory that we become more sensitive to sound when we are anxious.
AsCrystal explains: 'Our hearing has evolved to become especially acute at times of extreme danger or stress. For example, if there is a key in the door during the day, you hardly notice the sound, but late at night if you're in the house alone, it seems really loud.
'And it becomes a vicious cycle. The more you focus on the noise, the more anxious you get and the more the body amplifies the sound. This causes even more distress.'
This strikes a chord with Helen, who first heard the noises three years ago.
'It may be a fridge in the apartment above or a piece of heavy machinery at a nearby factory'Dr Geoff Leventhall
'We'd just moved house and had elderly parents who were dying. When those problems were resolved the noise didn't stop, but I started to feel calmer about it,' she says.
'Some people are just more sensitive to noise, low frequency or otherwise,' says Crystal Rolfe. 'And environmental noise is part of modern life.'
But this knowledge didn't help Helen. 'There were nights when sleeping was impossible. At night The Hum seemed even louder - it was all I could focus on. I became forgetful and my shortterm memory went.'
As for the toll on her relationship: 'My husband would have been quite within his rights to walk out: I was a nightmare. We thought about moving house, but this was our retirement and we'd put a lot of money into it.'
Last year, Dr Leventhall and his team were employed by Defra to launch a course, called Coping With Noise.
The course uses psychology and relaxation techniques to help sufferers feel less agitated and distressed by The Hum. (This is similar to the approach taken to help people cope with tinnitus.)
But for Helen, relief has come not through therapy, but acceptance. 'At the beginning I thought: "Why can't anybody hear this?"
'I Googled: "Is there a Hum in Ropley?" and heard about the Bristol Hum in the Seventies, when hundreds of people complained of a constant sound. They never found the cause, but it was such a relief to learn about it.
'I also discovered the Low Frequency Noise Sufferers' Association's helpline - just chatting to someone who understands makes you feel less isolated.'
She has also tried various relaxation techniques - such as breathing exercises - to help her sleep, but only one trick has been her saviour.
'I put the QVC shopping channel on low volume on the television - it's enough to distract me,' says Helen.
'The sound is always there, but I've learnt to live with it. I might never know what's causing it, but I've accepted that this is part of my life and might always be.'
•www.copingwithnoise.org.uk Low Frequency Noise Sufferers' helpline: 02380 268
Masking may help you live with Tinnitus: You Docs
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. I'm hard of hearing and have a steady noise in my ears: A "sh- sh-sh" that sounds like it's coming from a tunnel. I used to have it occasionally, but now it's a steady noise. Any suggestions besides just trying to ignore it? It's very likely that you have tinnitus; about 90 percent of people with hearing loss do. Although in Latin the word "tinnitus" means "ringing" - which is how most people describe the phantom noise in their ears that no one else can hear - it also can sound like hissing, buzzing, chirping, roaring or rushing (that sh-sh sound). You may have had tinnitus for a long time before you noticed it; hearing loss may have just revealed it because you were no longer picking up the sounds in your environment that masked it. How did you get it in the first place? One theory is that exposure to loud noise (explosions, jack hammers, Black Sabbath cranked to the max on your iPod) damages tiny, delicate hairs in the inner ear that move in response to sound. It also may confuse the cells in your ear that communicate "sound" to your brain, and they can begin randomly firing off "listen to this" messages to your brain in the absence of any sound. There aren't any cures for tinnitus, but there are many effective treatments. You should see an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat doctor), who will rule out other possible causes and may recommend hearing aids. Or try to find a subspecialist who just cares for people with tinnitus - that's what we'd do. Sometimes, just improving your ability to hear can cover up the tinnitus. The doc also might recommend a masking device, which is no bigger than a hearing aid. It essentially replaces tinnitus with a more pleasant sound, like rain or the ocean, that you can ignore as easily as you do any background noise. Once you learn to block out the pleasant sound, you may learn to ignore your tinnitus as well. A simple test can tell you if you're a good candidate for masking: Stand by a faucet running full force. If you can't hear your tinnitus, a masking device may work for you. To submit questions go to RealAge.com, The You Docs' online home.
%%head%%THE YOU DOCS%%endhead%%
%%by%%Michael Roizen, M.D.
and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
I'm hard of hearing and have a steady noise in my ears: A "sh- sh-sh" that sounds like it's coming from a tunnel. I used to have it occasionally, but now it's a steady noise. Any suggestions besides just trying to ignore it?
It's very likely that you have tinnitus; about 90 percent of people with hearing loss do.
Although in Latin the word "tinnitus" means "ringing" - which is how most people describe the phantom noise in their ears that no one else can hear - it also can sound like hissing, buzzing, chirping, roaring or rushing (that sh-sh sound). You may have had tinnitus for a long time before you noticed it; hearing loss may have just revealed it because you were no longer picking up the sounds in your environment that masked it.
How did you get it in the first place? One theory is that exposure to loud noise (explosions, jack hammers, Black Sabbath cranked to the max on your iPod) damages tiny, delicate hairs in the inner ear that move in response to sound. It also may confuse the cells in your ear that communicate "sound" to your brain, and they can begin randomly firing off "listen to this" messages to your brain in the absence of any sound.
There aren't any cures for tinnitus, but there are many effective treatments. You should see an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose and throat doctor), who will rule out other possible causes and may recommend hearing aids. Or try to find a subspecialist who just cares for people with tinnitus - that's what we'd do. Sometimes, just improving your ability to hear can cover up the tinnitus.
The doc also might recommend a masking device, which is no bigger than a hearing aid. It essentially replaces tinnitus with a more pleasant sound, like rain or the ocean, that you can ignore as easily as you do any background noise. Once you learn to block out the pleasant sound, you may learn to ignore your tinnitus as well....
Managing the Sounds of Tinnitus
Monday, April 6th 2009
When most of us think of hearing problems the first thing that comes to mind is hearing loss; perhaps because we all know someone in our life who has experienced hearing loss. But audiologists and other hearing care professionals help patients cope with a variety of hearing problems.
One of the most common is ringing in the ears, also called tinnitus, pronounced TIN-ah-tuss or tah-NIGHT-us. But no matter how you pronounce it, it comes down to a royal pain in the ear for a lot of patients, young and old. And the fact is, there’s no cure for the condition.
Tinnitus: Whoosh, Swish, and Ssssss
Tinnitus have you worrried? There's help.
The sounds of tinnitus vary person to person and may consist of whistling, hissing, swooshing and ringing – sometimes all at once. You know that’ll drive you a little nutty. And although tinnitus is most typically described as a “ringing”, patients with tinnitus hear a variety of sounds from sources that…well, that just aren’t fully known by researchers. In many cases, tinnitus symptoms are mild and don’t disrupt daily life.
In more severe cases, the constant ringing, whistling and whooshing can quickly lead to anxiety and, ultimately, depression.
According to theAmerican Tinnitus Association (ATA), an estimated 50 million Americans experience tinnitus to some degree. Of these, 12 million have symptoms severe enough to seek medical attention and roughly 2 million are so debilitated; they are not able to function on a “normal” day-to-day basis.
For the 2 million severe cases, the individual’s ability to work, his/her personal relationships with spouse, friends and neighbors are affected and, ultimately, quality of life is significantly reduced.
Imagine having a constant ringing. Never stops from the moment you awake (if you could get to sleep) until bed time, when those annoying sounds can prevent sleep from coming.
It’s a serious, often long-term problem, and one that affects people you know.
Cause of Tinnitus
Although the exact cause of tinnitus is unknown, hearing researchers have uncovered a number of possible sources for tinnitus – some preventable, some not so much. For example, tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss. According to ATA, up to 90 percent of all tinnitus patients have some degree of hearing loss.
Exposure to loud noise is another cause of tinnitus. Ever left a rock concert or loud movie with ringing in your ears? It’s pretty common, but if allowed to “heal itself” this kind of ringing in the ears may go away.
However, if the exposure to loud noise is regular and on-going, and the ear doesn’t have the opportunity to heal itself, the condition can easily (and quickly) become permanent. Not to mention you may also have permanent noise-induced hearing loss. That’s a critical reason to give your ears a break once in a while from your MP3 player. Ears can heal themselves if the noise exposure is eliminated and the individual creates a quiet environment for a day or two.
Disease and other health conditions have been tied to tinnitus, such as cardiovascular problems and various autoimmune diseases. Ear and sinus infection, head/neck trauma and jaw misalignments are also often associated with tinnitus.
Tinnitus can also be caused temporarily by something as simple as the build-up of ear wax and by simply removing the ear wax, the tinnitus diminishes. Ear wax removal can be safely performed by a hearing care professional such as an otolaryngologist or an audiologist.
Finally, certain medications, like high-dose antibiotics, cancer chemo drugs and even plain old aspirin, can cause bouts of tinnitus – some of which last as long as the medication is taken. That’s one reason that physicians recommend low-dose aspirin for those taking aspirin for heart health. The lower dose of aspirin provides the heart health benefits folks are after without doing damage to the ear.
"One of the frustrating things about tinnitus is that there aren't any universal successful treatments," says Dr. Charles Beatty, M.D., a Mayo Clinic specialist in head and neck disorders said in a recent Mayo Clinic Women’s Health Source. "The good news is that the problem usually isn't associated with a serious medical condition, and there are ways we can try to make the tinnitus less annoying and disruptive."
According to the experts, the best “cure” is prevention. Be aware of the sounds around you and when you are exposed to loud noises, take steps to protect your ears. If you’re going to be pushing the lawn mower around Saturday mornings, buy a pair of ear plugs to protect what nature gave you. Good hearing.
When you’re exposed to loud noise, give your ears a chance to heal themselves. Take breaks from the MP3 player. Quiet time provides the ear mechanism the opportunity to rest and hopefully return to normal hearing levels – without tinnitus. For persons with hearing loss and that are experiencing tinnitus, consider wearing hearing aids. A recent survey of 230 hearing health professionals, performed by theBetter Hearing Institute, “found that six out of ten patients reported some relief of their tinnitus when using hearing aids and two of ten reported major relief.”
Stay clear of stimulants that can aggravate tinnitus. Caffeine, nicotine and some decongestants can aggravate an existing problem.
As mentioned, take low dose aspirin. Also, don’t take aspirin for every little ache or pain. Most of us think of aspirin as a one-stop painkiller, fixing everything from arthritis to migraines. Remember, aspirin is a powerful medication but it has some nasty side effects, too. One of which is tinnitus.
Live a “heart healthy” lifestyle to promote blood circulation and healthy blood pressure. This includes daily exercise, visits to your physician, reducing salt intake as salt can restrict blood circulation and getting plenty of rest.
Stress has also been a suspect source of tinnitus. Perhaps learn to meditate. Soft music, scented candles, safety and serenity. These simple pleasures relax the brain and the body, soothing the tension that’s sometimes associated with tinnitus.
Most importantly, discuss tinnitus with your physician and/or audiologist. Tinnitus can lead to anxiety, depression and an overall reduced quality in life. And in rare cases, tinnitus can be the sign of a more serious health issue that may require medical intervention.
An audiologist specializing in tinnitus will be able to determine if any sort of tinnitus treatment or therapy is recommended. Yes that is correct – there are treatment options and you do not need to live with this for the rest of your life. And as discussed, treatment may be as simple as wearing hearing aids and a hearing evaluation will be determine this.
So give your ears a break from the loud noise. Protect them when around noise. Discuss symptoms and concerns with your hearing care professional – they are there to help you.
Focus on tinnitus sufferer's life with the condition
Feb 9 2009 by Helen Rae, Evening Chronicle
Research into the effects of tinnitus — a buzzing or ringing in the ears — shows it has a profound impact on all aspects of people’s lives. To mark the start of National Tinnitus Awareness Week, Health Reporter HELEN RAE speaks to one man who is living with the condition.
PENSIONER Alan Robson knows all about the impact of living with tinnitus.
The 70-year-old, ofBlyth, Northumberland, was diagnosed with the condition almost three years ago after he had his ears syringed to remove ear wax.
When the retired lorry driver first noticed the “buzzing” noise, he thought it was coming from the fridge, but soon realised it was in his own head.
He said: “At first, the noise was really distracting — like a hissing and high-pitched screaming — and the frequency of it changed when I moved my jaw up and down.
“I thought I was going to go deaf but, over time, I’ve got used to it.
“When I go to bed, there is a hissing sound in my ears, and when I wake up, it’s still there — I can’t get away from it.
“Some people who have the condition who get really depressed about it, just wishing it would go away, but I try to remain as positive as I can.
“At times, the noise gets so loud I think people must be able to hear it, but they can’t.”
The grandfather added: “If you learn to live with the condition and work at ignoring it, then it makes life a lot easier.”
Mr Robson visits Newcastle Freeman’s Tinnitus Clinic every six months and uses a tinnitus masker, which provides a gentle rushing sound that he concentrates on to ignore the other sounds in his head.
He also goes along to a local support group in Shiremoor,North Tyneside, where other people affected by the condition can go along and share their experiences.
He added: “Talking to other people helps — you soon realise there are other people much worse off than you.”
Tinnitus is one of the most common hearing complaints, affecting almost five million in theUK — 10% of adults.
Typically described as a persistent ringing, buzzing or whistling in the ears, most people will experience tinnitus at some point, and it’s quite common to have it for a short while after exposure to loud noise.
However, for some, the condition can become a major disturbance, leading to difficulty sleeping, poor concentration and, in some cases, depression. Tinnitus is nearly always physically harmless and, although there is no cure, there are many steps that can be taken to minimise its disruption.
Ian Johnson, clinical director for Ear Nose and Throat Services and a leading consultant ENT surgeon at theFreemanHospital inNewcastle, said: “Tinnitus can have a detrimental effect on people’s lives, so it’s important to seek professional help.
“Your GP can refer you to be seen by an ENT surgeon who specialises in ear disorders and you will have a series of tests to make sure there is no underlying cause for the tinnitus.
“Once we have the results of these investigations, we can get you started on the best course of treatment, and many of our patients benefit from seeing one of our audiologists, who specialise in tinnitus retraining therapy.”
Some people are more sensitive to everyday sounds, meaning the radio or TV can be painfully loud when it is at a normal volume. Others hear tinnitus when they are in a quiet environment.
The condition is associated with getting older but it affects people of all ages, including a growing number of younger people due to the increasing noise of modern-day life.
There are many different causes of tinnitus and it is often linked to loud noise, hearing loss, ear or head injuries, ear wax, ear infections, Meniere’s Disease, emotional stress and anxiety or as a side effect of medication.
TheFreemanHospital’s tinnitus retraining therapy service is led by chief audiologist Tom Davison. He said: “We hold special counselling sessions with each of our patients, talking through their lifestyles, including diet, recent changes in circumstances and any medication they might be taking.
“We may find, for example, that too much alcohol or coffee is causing the problem, or there may have been a bereavement or other situation causing anxiety. All these things are known to cause tinnitus.”
Mr Davison and his team hold retraining therapy sessions, where the brain is encouraged to ignore and switch off the sound.
It can take anywhere from six to 18 months to be completely effective, so patience is essential.
For more information, visit the British Tinnitus Association’s website at www.tinnitus.org.uk or the Royal National Institute for the Deaf at www.tuneouttinnitus.org.uk
There is also a Tinnitus Support Group which meets twice monthly, alternating between Thursday at 2-4pm and Tuesday 6-8pm at the Shiremoor Centre,Earsdon Road, Shiremoor.
To find out more about the support group, contact Derek Craigie on (0191) 200 8574 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Struggle, isolation of tinnitus sufferers prompts outpouring
Health professionals among Star readers responding to plight of Niagara-area couple
Jan 24, 2009
Kathleen Dunphy , 82, listens to an audio book. Having her inner ear removed allowed her to recover from tinnitus.
PAWEL DWULIT /TORONTO STAR
Three weeks ago, this column featured Barbara Flood and her husband Harry. Barbara suffers from a rare and debilitating form of tinnitus – a constant, loud racket in her ears.
Readers' response to this article was overwhelming. Emails and phone calls with offers of help and proffers of support poured in to the Floods, to me and to theStar.
Perhaps the outpouring was owing to the frighteningly inexplicable onset of tinnitus as well as it's pervasiveness. Millions of North Americans suffer from one form or another.
Medical professionals – doctors, nurses, osteopaths, naturopaths, chiropractors – and manufacturers of hearing-loss related devices called and emailed with suggestions for the Floods and to offer free treatments.
Fellow tinnitus sufferers expressed sympathy and encouragement. William Horeis' response was representative of the frustration expressed by many: "During the last 18 months, while suffering from another health issue, (I saw) six doctors, five hospitals, multiple MRIs, CAT scans. The seventh doctor knew what the issue was infive minutes....I'm now on the road to recovery."
Another reader said the sound he hears is so loud, he sometimes feels that, if he opened his mouth, everyone would be able to hear it.
Family and friends of those afflicted also wanted to help. One reader described a family member begging a doctor to make him deaf to relieve the symptoms.
Another relative of a tinnitus sufferer who contacted me was Moira Dunphy, an acclaimed comedy improviser and the mother of three boys. She is also one of nine children. Her 82-year-old mother suffered from tinnitus. Dunphy did not fully realize the impact it had on her and her family's life until she read the Floods' story.
Kathleen Dunphy got tinnitus as a result of complications from ear surgery.
"Life changed very quickly for my mother, a mother of nine," Moira writes in an email.
"She couldn't eat dinner with us, because odds were, at some point, there'd be a burst of laughter, and that noise would send her to bed.Reading made this avid reader dizzy and nauseated."
Later, Moira adds over the phone, "There's no containing a Dunphy. We're a family of nine. We're loud. She'd sit and watch and wonder what people were saying. And we'd have to remind ourselves what she was going through.
"If someone has a cast on their arm, you remember that they can't pick something up, but with the ear it's invisible. You forget that they can't participate."
Eventually, Kathleen Dunphy had to have her inner ear removed. That third surgery within a year brought her peace – and a blood clot in her leg. "A parting gift," says Moira. "Plus, nine months of cringing had my mom's shoulders pulled up to her ears and it took more than two years of massage, shiatsu, acupuncture and physiotherapy to bring them back down."
Like Barbara Flood, Kathleen Dunphy succumbed to depression. In a phone conversation, she says, for her, tinnitus was "like something battering against you for hours. But it's nothing visible. So you feel that you should be able to ignore it – it's not pain, it's not cancer. But that's why depression goes along with it. Because youcan't ignore it."
The result of Kathleen's depression sent her back to school to become a psychiatric nurse, something she always wanted to do. She ended up working at Casey House, a hospice for AIDS patients, from its opening until she retired.
This fall, Moira and her husband, comedian Jerry Schaefer, bought a house with Kathleen. Moira says her sons love living with their grandmother. An added bonus, "she comes with a dog...."
Kathleen's tinnitus is under control but she is losing her sight to macular degeneration. "A punishment for all my sins," she says with a laugh. The initial treatment was a needle in the eye. She comments wryly, "I guess when you're facing blindness, you'll try anything. Unfortunately, it didn't work."
As someone who has suffered hearing loss and now vision impairment, she has a unique perspective. "Hearing loss was far worse than losing my eyesight," she says.
Patients at Casey House who lost their hearing to AIDS also seemed to suffer more than people who went blind, she says.
"Because deafness is totally isolating – in so many more ways than if you lose your sight....I thought if I couldn't read, I would automatically die. Now I can download books on audible books. That's a life saver."
And her daughter Moira has a message for the Floods:
"I wish I could let them know that someone out there understands."
Diane Flacks is a writer/actor/author
living inToronto. dianeflacks.com.
Ceaseless noise drowns out joys of life
Tinnitus has ravagedOntario woman's world and spurred her husband's desperate search for a cure
By Diane Flacks Challenges
Published On Sat Jan 03 2009
Barbara and Harry Flood, both 69, are basically housebound in their Niagara-on-The-Lake home. A constant, irritating, buzzing, humming noise that began five years ago inside Barbara's head has yet to stop.
GLENN LOWSON FOR THETORONTO STAR
Imagine an irritating, pervasive noise suddenly begins in your ears. No one else hears it. And it never stops.
One moment, Harry and Barbara Flood, both 69, were planning their retirement; the next, their life was consumed by an unseen, and seemingly untreatable, condition: tinnitus.
"I took an early retirement when I was 57," Harry says over the phone from his home in southernOntario. "We bought a B&B. We made some money, we went toFlorida for two months in the winter. Life was grand ... Then this happened to Barbara. It has been a disaster."
Tinnitus can range from mild to catastrophic. Harry says Barbara describes the sounds she has heard in her ears for the past five years as "a whooshing noise that comes and goes, not always in a pattern, sometimes clanging, cymbal-like, like somebody scraping a knife on a blackboard."
For the Floods, it's close to catastrophic.
Barbara was unable to talk to me for more than a few seconds on the phone. She sounds utterly exhausted. Her husband of 45 years has become her caretaker and her advocate.
Harry says, when he first told people Barbara had tinnitus, they would ask, "Is it in her wrist or her elbow?"
"People think it's comical, a ringing in the ears. It sounds silly....I used to carry printouts of information to help explain it."
It started in October 2003. "We were watching TV and she said the TV was making a humming, buzzing noise. We switched channels; it didn't help. I turned it off and she still heard it. We waited a day or two and, when it didn't stop, we went to our GP ... The last thing they want to hear is, `I've got ringing in my ears. Can you stop it?'"
The Floods hoped it was an ear infection. They assumed it was something that would go away. They would get a pill from a doctor and proceed with their plans to move closer to their daughter and grandchildren.
Barbara was given high-dose antibiotics. When that didn't work, she was immediately tested for hearing loss, since the first stage of deafness can often be tinnitus. It turned out she has no audiological deficiency.
She has since been seen by neurologists, rheumatologists, cardiologists, hypnotherapists, massage therapists and reflexologists. She has tried numerous drugs and a form of non-invasive electroshock called rTMS – repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation – at $400 a day. She has travelled to clinics inOttawa,Buffalo andToronto.
Each time, Harry holds out hope. Each time, Barbara enjoys being among people who "get" her, who can focus their expertise and attention on her. Each time, they leave disappointed.
Harry says the tinnitus, and the inability of anyone to explain it or offer a way to make it stop, have caused his wife to withdraw from the lively social circle they shared.
People want to come visit, thinking they can "cheer Barbara up." But she can't focus, she feels separate and finds interacting with anyone but her husband and anywhere but at home very difficult. Which means her husband is also isolated.
"I don't like to leave her alone," Harry explains. "We are handcuffed to the house."
Frustration adds to the burden.
"As you get older, you expect health deterioration. We don't smoke, we keep busy, we're in good shape – and we can't do anything with it."
As a result, his wife is now suffering from depression, "She was always good humoured ... Now, she doesn't find much joy in things ... " Harry's voice cracks. "I think about it and it's tear-jerking.
"Barbara was an office manager, a take-charge gal. She ran the show (thankfully, for my sake). And now, of course, she's just completely different. She'll say, `What can I do now? What can we do now?'
"I'm at a loss, as a husband and a caregiver. It's so sad for me not to be able to do anything for her."
Barbara experiences grief that she is not who she was, that she is missing out on time with her grandchildren. Harry says their two children find it especially difficult.
"Barbara was not a glass half-empty person before. We would drink that glass and fill up another!"
He is doing the best he can with the cup he has now. He has become a pseudo expert in his wife's medical condition, often offering the latest research to a new medical practitioner.
"We chase everything we can. All over the world ... You live in hope that something will come along."
Harry has even surfed tinnitus chat rooms.
"We know that medical discoveries are often a result of stumbling on something ... I was struck by the many bizarre activities people were resorting to – `Has anybody tried standing on their heads?' – and, you know? Good for them. We'll try anything."
He is determined. No matter the cost, it's better to try and fail than to miss something.
And although he's isolated, he feels part of a community – one he didn't plan on getting to know that well.
"It's surprising how many people have a cross to bear that no one is aware of," he says. "We carry on."
For info about tinnitus inCanada: kadis.com/ta/tinnitus.htm.
Diane Flacks is a writer/actor/author living inToronto.dianeflacks.com.
‘You can’t just switch off the noises’
Jan 22 2009 by Gregory Tindle,South Wales Echo
Anita Lee is proof that tinnitus sufferers can learn to lead a relatively normal life
FOR a brief moment Anita Lee considered taking her own life as she struggled to cope with a condition that was dominating her every waking hour.
The high pitched buzzing noise in her head would come and go and initially Anita received little help from her GP, apart from a prescription for antidepressants, until she eventually sought expert medical help and was diagnosed with tinnitus.
Anita was 60 and had lived a fit and active life working for the NHS as an occupational therapist, helping others to try to get back to normal after accidents and illness.
Anita’s dad had been struck down with a heart attack and her younger sister was battling cancer when the high pitched noise in her head started coming and going throughout the day and it was on the verge of driving her mad.
She said: “The only thing I can compare it with is opening a bottle of pop and then listening to the sound it makes with your ear pressed close to the top.
“My dad had tinnitus but he used to dismiss it as a bad headache but when he became ill and died from a heart attack in March 2007 my tinnitus started about a month later.
“At the time I had been visiting dad in hospital every day for months and then travelling to see my sister Elizabeth, who was in and out of in hospital inExeter. This had been going on for 20 months and I believe the condition was brought on by stress, although there is no proof of that.”
After her diagnosis was confirmed, Anita said the noises would come and go, getting louder and louder. “The problem is no-one can see it or hear it and it was like a vicious circle. Everyone told me it must be awful and it is awful; this high pitched noise in my head which you can never get rid of can make you very withdrawn.”
Eventually, Anita sought expert help and this arrived in the form of a newspaper advert offering a hearing test for tinnitus sufferers with checks by an audiologist.
“After the test, I ended up with two hearing aids and this proved a big breakthrough. There is a sound generator in the hearing aid that produces white noise, which can mask the tinnitus sounds.”
Anita also uses a sound ball, a form of speaker that can generate soothing sounds such as a babbling brook, sea or a fountain.
“At the end of the day the idea is to try to get the brain to filter out the tinnitus sound. It’s a bit like moving next to a busy road and it’s terrible for a week or two but eventually you get used to it and the brain learns to cope.”
For Anita, now 62, of Whitchurch,Cardiff, who carries out voluntary work for her local church book shop and helps with Age Concern, her main enjoyment is to get out and about with friends.
“I like company and when you’re busy in good company laughing and joking, you can forget about the tinnitus.”
Sarah Foster, a tinnitus expert and clinical audiologist, said: “Tinnitus can happen at any age. It’s more prevalent in adults but is not unheard of in children.
“It can happen for many different reasons. It could be physical such as hearing loss, a bump on the head or a trauma but it can also be purely an emotional reaction to a change in circumstance.
“Many of the patients are quite anxious and stressed about their experience and welcome advice and reassurance that help is available.
“The symptoms of tinnitus can be described as any internal noise heard within the head or ears when there is no external stimulus. Some people have got this misconception that it’s just a ringing noise but it can be a humming, whistling, beeping or squeaking.”
Sarah, of Cardiff-based Hearing Aid Solutions, said: “The biggest problem we face is raising awareness that something can be done for tinnitus sufferers – we really need to get the message out there that there is help available and the techniques used do have an extremely high success rate. What many sufferers want is reassurance that there are lots of ways of helping and managing tinnitus. A lot of people are very anxious and depressed about their condition and the fact that they have no control over their symptoms.
“Some people are so badly affected that they can’t go out, they cut themselves off from the world and it affects their sleep. We can’t just switch tinnitus off but we can teach people a way of learning to live with it and put them back in control. There is no quick fix, it does take time and commitment – but it’s worth it.”
Hearing Aid Solutions is holding an open day to mark National Tinnitus Awareness week on Monday, February 9, at their outlet in JR Lane Optician,96 Station Road, Llandaff North.
WHAT IS TINNITUS?
TINNITUS is a condition where noises are heard in the ears or in the head. The noise varies from ringing, whistling, buzzing and humming.
The noise may be low, medium or high pitched, may be continuous or it may come and go. There is currently no cure.
It is not a disease or an illness. The cause is not fully understood but it affects an estimated five million people in theUK.
Tinnitus is common in all age groups, especially following exposure to loud noise.
Mild tinnitus is common – about 10% of the population have it all the time.
For further advice, support or information ring the British Tinnitus Association on 0800 018 0527.