Some 4.5 million people in the UK suffer from tinnitus which may range from the well-known ringing in the ears to musical hallucinations. Often associated with the elderly, it can occur at any age, even in quite young children. The sound itself is as individual as the person suffering with it, but common descriptions include a whistle, a whine, a high-pitch ringing or a buzzing. Tinnitus can be a far more troublesome symptom than hearing loss itself, affecting sleep, concentration, confidence, and mood.
The emotional aspect of this disorder cannot be overlooked. Indeed, tinnitus has been described as an 'emotional barometer' - it is often more intrusive when people are under stress. When you notice that the tinnitus is demanding your attention, ask yourself if there is anything else that is on your mind that you need to sort out, suggests Christine Craggs-Hinton.
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- Avoiding drugs and foods that may affect the ear (diuretics, cheese, caffeine)
- Taking enough fluid to keep the system hydrated
- Relaxation and quiet time to 'rest' the ear
- How your doctor can help; complementary therapies
- Sound therapy
- Behavioural techniques for those who feel their tinnitus is 'in control'.