Ringing ears, no sleep and even suicide: Manchester sufferer calls for end of ‘flippant’ attitude to tinnitus

A Manchester tinnitus sufferer is calling for people to change their ‘flippant’ attitudes towards the incurable condition, which can lead to sleeplessness, distress and even suicide.

ITV’s Good Morning Britain presenter Susanna Reid had the condition making headlines after she spoke of her distress at being diagnosed with the symptom last week.

The condition is the perception of a noise being heard in the head and/or ears and is commonly explained as a ringing sound, but can be all sorts of noises at different levels.

Approximately 10% of the UK adult population have or experience tinnitus – equating to around 6.3 million people in the UK – which is commonly caused by working in noisy working environments.

The British Tinnitus Association supports people with the condition and hold support groups in cities around the country, including Manchester.

Projects manager Emily Broomhead explained that many people are unaware of the condition and the devastating impact it can have on sufferers’ lives.

“Tinnitus is perhaps not taken seriously by those who haven’t experienced it, but that may be because they don’t know what it is and what it’s like to have it,” she told MM.

“Sometimes people are quite flippant with health issues until they actually go through it – thinking it won’t happen to them – but tinnitus is so common in all age ranges.

“It’s vital that more people are made aware of the damage that can be caused by just listening to music too loudly or by not protecting their ears when they are using noisy equipment.”

Manchester resident, Campbell Robertson, 73, has suffered from the condition for six years and regularly attends the tinnitus support group in the city.

He only found out he had the condition, which he was unaware existed, after being diagnosed by a doctor.

The pensioner suspected it might have been caused after having his ears syringed for wax removal.

“I went to a doctor with a hissing noise in my ear and asked whether they needed cleaning. He said I had tinnitus,” Campbell told MM.

“Some sufferers still don’t know what it is and assume it is normal.

“GP’s don’t like it because there’s nothing at the moment that can be done in terms of prescriptions or consultations – there’s no cure.”

Campbell explained that he had a mild form of the condition, compared to other people in his support group.

“I know people who have got it much worse than mine – people who have noises like using an electric drill that goes on and on,” he said.

“The ones with the louder noises suffer most, it is certainly something that has driven people to suicide in the past.

“A lot of people with tinnitus can’t sleep at all, which drives them to suicide. A great deal of people come to our group who cannot sleep.

“In our group one or two people came to me and did speak about contemplating suicide because of the relentless fact that it doesn’t stop.”

The 73-year-old explained that tinnitus was worse in a quiet atmosphere and goes into the background if you’re in a noisy place like a pub.

According to Campbell, attending the support group was helpful, as sufferers could meet up and share their feelings however some suffers still believe that there’s a cure out there.

“Some people come to the group thinking it’s going to be cured,” he said.

“We give them suggestions as to how we cope and try to put it as far back into their heads as it will go.

“The worst thing you can do is get stressed about it [tinnitus].

“Stress increases the level of tinnitus. It’s a vicious circle and a lot of people are driven crazy because the noise gets worse.

“You can’t plug it – you’ve got to learn to live with it. Physical and mental help sees them through it.”

Campbell still attends theatres and concerts but explained some sufferers with serious forms of the condition are unable to do so.

He advised that young people should be wary about the tinnitus and look after their hearing to prevent it affecting them at a later age.

“Something what worries me today is young people walking around with music pumping into their eardrums and brain passages on the bus or walking down the street,” he said.

“It’s damaging their hearing and they will end up either deaf or with tinnitus, almost certainly.

“Hearing is a delicate system.”

The BTA are working to help find a cure of tinnitus and ways of managing it, along with finding out more about how the condition develops and its main causes.

More information can be viewed through the BTA website by clicking here.

You can also contact the Manchester Tinnitus Support Group on 0161 276 9333 or via email by clicking here.

Image courtesy of Esther Simpson, with thanks.

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