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Last Updated: Monday, 20 February 2006, 00:46 GMT
Lives 'devastated' by tinnitus
Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News website age & disability correspondent

Photo of an ear
Almost 5m people are estimated to have tinnitus
Research into the effects of tinnitus - a buzzing or ringing in the ears - shows that it has a profound impact on all aspects of people's lives.

The findings come from work carried out by two leading charities in the field of hearing loss.

More than 40% of the 900 surveyed said their condition had a negative effect on their personal relationships.

And more than a quarter of those people blamed tinnitus for having a reduced sex drive.

The research was carried out by the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) and the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) and marks the beginning of the first National Tinnitus Week.

Almost 900 people responded to an online survey.

It is estimated that 4.7m people in the UK experience tinnitus in one or both ears.

The survey results show that - of those who said their personal relationships were affected by tinnitus - almost 40% felt that a lack of understanding from a partner contributed to the problem.

People with tinnitus also felt the condition had an adverse effect on their professional lives.

More than 40% said this was the case, and almost half of them had not told their colleagues because they did not think that they would understand.

Nearly a quarter of those who had not told colleagues thought that declaring tinnitus could affect their job prospects.

And workplace noise was blamed for the onset of tinnitus by more than 20% of respondents.

"The results of the survey confirm the devastating effect that tinnitus has on the relationships and work lives of thousands of people in the UK," said Karen Brunger, RNID's tinnitus and audiology information officer.

"However, the good news is that they are things that you can do to help manage the condition."

The RNID and BTA hope that National Tinnitus Week will help to raise awareness among those who have the condition as well as their friends, families and colleagues.

The organisations currently receive around 800 calls a month from people asking for information on how to deal with tinnitus.

"Although tinnitus is not life-threatening, it can be very stressful," said BTA chairman, Ewart Davies.

"It is important for people to know that the BTA and RNID can offer the support and advice that is needed to take control of the condition."

As well as contacting the BTA and RNID, people with the condition are being urged to seek help from their family doctor who can refer them to a ear, nose and throat specialist.

Although tinnitus cannot be cured, it can be managed by using sound therapy to distract people from the buzzing or ringing, or habituation therapy to alter sound response systems.

People are also advised to practise relaxation and to consider using a hearing aid if they also suffer hearing loss.


SEE ALSO:
Mind unlocks tinnitus secret
27 Feb 01 |  Health


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