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Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2007, 02:57 GMT
Many fail to recognise tinnitus
Tinnitus noise can take different forms
One in four people with tinnitus initially thought the noises they could hear were coming from their surroundings, research has found.

Many people with the condition had mistakenly complained to their local council about noise pollution.

Tinnitus, which affects 4.7 million in the UK, is the medical term for any noise heard in the ears or in the head.

The survey was carried out by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People and the British Tinnitus Association.

The two charities surveyed more than 1,000 people with the condition, and found many initially thought the noises they could hear were coming from neighbours, traffic, or a household appliance.

A follow-up survey of local councils suggested that over 2,000 complaints about noise received by environmental health services across the UK each year are made by people who may have tinnitus, but do not realise it.

Jamie Gregory, 32, from Southampton said: "Before I realised the high-pitched whirring sound I could hear was tinnitus, I spent a couple of months thinking it was my new boiler making the noise.
"It was only one evening when I asked my partner whether she could hear the noise, and she replied that she couldn't hear anything, that I realised it might be tinnitus.
"I always thought tinnitus was a 'ringing' in the ears, and this didn't sound like a 'ringing' noise at all - more of a 'whirring'.
"After I realised this, I went straight on the internet to find out some information about it.
"I now listen to music when I'm trying to sleep at night, which is really good at distracting me from the sound of the tinnitus."

Tinnitus is most often associated with a ringing in the ears, but can take many different forms, which can easily be confused with external noise.

The RNID and BTA are issuing guidance on how to differentiate tinnitus from external noise.

Dr John Low, RNID chief executive, said: "Tinnitus can be extremely distressing for many people and can have a profound impact on their lives.

"These survey results reveal that thousands of people are potentially unaware of tinnitus, meaning they could be missing out on vital support to help them manage the condition."

Ewart Davies, BTA chairman, said the best way to spot tinnitus was to go to a very quiet place, and check if the noise persists.

Both charities are concerned that people with the condition are missing out on an effective assessment, and treatments.

There currently is no cure for tinnitus, but there are many ways to manage the condition.

These include habituation therapy, which changes the way the body's sound system responds to the noise, so that you gradually become less aware of the problem.

An alternative is therapy to distract people from the buzzing or ringing.

Lives 'devastated' by tinnitus
20 Feb 06 |  Health
Mind unlocks tinnitus secret
27 Feb 01 |  Health


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