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  • Writer's pictureLiz Copping

Tinnitus - stop ringing!

One in seven adults in the UK suffer from tinnitus but if you are lucky enough not to be one of those people PLEASE DON’T STOP READING. The rate of people suffering from tinnitus is rising and there is currently no cure. Something has to be done.

Is there a cure for tinnitus?
Liz Copping, Co-host of the podcast Two Women Chatting who has suffered with tinnitus for over 25 years

There is currently no cure for tinnitus

One in seven adults - that’s 7.6 million people and 1.5 million of them like me have severe tinnitus. I can only describe it as having an old-fashioned kettle whistling in my ears, other say it is more like ringing or buzzing. I have lived with it for over 25 years but in the last six months it has intensified and it’s a constant in my life- not a good one. I have a fantastic GP but she has no idea what caused mine and there is little she can do to alleviate what I have to say is my suffering. (I know it sounds extreme but anyone who suffers with severe tinnitus will understand). It is seriously affecting my sleep which has a knock-on effect as I am permanently exhausted. To be honest it’s flipping annoying and some days I am so tired it affects my speech which is not ideal as a podcast host!

What causes tinnitus?

I am not going to go into detail about the causes of tinnitus as the charity Tinnitus UK explains it far more eloquently than I ever could. But basically, tinnitus is often associated with an ear infection, ear wax , inner ear damage, exposure to loud noises and age. However, like me, one in every three people with tinnitus do not have any obvious problem with their ears or hearing.

So being the internet ferret I am I decided to do a bit of research myself and discovered the Tinnitus UK website has a ton of useful free information and support. And some very interesting and somewhat scary data about sound levels that we all need to know.

It can be hard to know how loud a sound is

Sound is measured in decibels (dB(A)) and researchers (source RNID) have found that people who are exposed over long periods of time to noise levels at 85 dBA or higher are at a much greater risk for hearing loss.

Sound intensity (the energy the sound wave carries) doubles with every increase of 3dB. So even though, for example, the sound of heavy traffic doesn’t sound twice as loud as a food blender, it’s twice as intense. For reference, 110 dBA is more than 100 times as intense as 85 decibels!).

The safe exposure time for 85dB is up to eight hours a day but of course, we are exposed to lots of different sounds that are 85dB or over throughout the day. As sound intensity doubles with every increase of 3dB, the safe exposure time halves. So, for example, the safe exposure time for 85dB is four hours.

How loud is loud

Here are some examples:

  • 0dB: the quietest sound a healthy human ear can hear

  • 40dB: a quiet library

  • 60dB: ordinary spoken conversation

  • 85dB: a food blender

  • 88dB: heavy traffic

  • 91dB: a pneumatic drill

  • 97dB: an industrial fire alarm

  • 100dB: a nightclub

  • 110dB: a live gig or concert

  • 130dB: an aeroplane taking off 100m away.

(Source RNID )

Your hearing can become damaged after:

103dB MP3 player at full volume 7 min 30 seconds

106dB Motorbike engine 3 min 45 seconds

109dB Crying baby 1 min 42 seconds

110dB Live rock band 1 min 6 seconds

(Source Tinnitus UK

Many devices that we and our kids use today have noise levels much higher than 85dBA. For example, music played through headphones at the highest volume is often 94-110 dBA. Manufacturers are not required to limit the maximum sound output of music devices.

Apps which can monitor sound levels

There are several apps such as Decibel and Sound Monitor available for both smart and android phones which monitor sound levels. You’re at risk of hearing damage after just 15 minutes when you’re in an average nightclub, which plays music at 100dB. I shudder when I think of all those concerts and discos I came out of with my ears ringing the next morning! Certainly a lightbulb moment for me – this may well have been the cause of my tinnitus!!!

So invest in some earplugs

It’s too late for me and my ears but it’s not too late for you and your kids. One of the best ways to reduce your chance of tinnitus is to protect your ears from loud noise and get some ear plugs. It’s so obvious when you think about it. We wear sunglasses to protect our eyes from the sun, we use sun cream to protect our skin and so why not wear ear plugs to protect our ears. Fortunately, earplugs have come a long way from those little bright yellow or orange buds and they come in different shapes and forms.

Are there any treatments for tinnitus?

I am regularly kept awake half the night unable to sleep because of the screeching in my ears and have scoured the internet for every possible treatment for tinnitus. There is a serious amount of information and promises of relief and treatment on the market, most of which is frankly misleading and expensive.

The type of treatments on offer vary from diet supplements, CBD gummies, acupuncture, osteopathy and hearing, aids white noise machines and habituation. The latter,I am currently looking into as I have heard firsthand that it can help but of course does not cure tinnitus.

The Tinnitus UK website has an excellent section where they provide regular updates on treatments on offer. They give their verdicts on two aspects:

Safety - and whether it will do you harm

Efficacy – whether the treatment works for tinnitus.

This week is #tinnitusweek 6-12 February 2023 and the aim is to highlight what research is going on across the country and get it on the political stage and also focus on prevention. And also to endorse the fact that one of the best ways to reduce your chance of tinnitus is to make sure that you wear ear protection when exposed to loud noise and #tinnitus23 is calling for those working and living in noisy environments to 'Plug'em'!

Remember you can be affected by tinnitus at any age and currently, there is no cure for tinnitus. Without research one won’t be found.

NOTE: Pulsatile tinnitus is a noise in the ear that sounds like a heartbeat and can be caused by normal or abnormal blood flow in the vessels near the ear. This type of tinnitus should be brought to the attention of your doctor, because there are various rare conditions that cause it that may require medical intervention. Please speak to your doctor if you have any problems with your ears to rule out anything more serious.

Please visit our resources page which has a collection of useful links from 3rd party websites and content.

One book I have found useful is Living with Tinnitus by Hashir Aazh & Brian C.J. Moore

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