'It affects your whole life': Calls to change perceptions of tinnitus in Wales

80% of those who have the condition agreed it had led to them experiencing low mood or anxiety. Credit: PA

People living with tinnitus in Wales are calling for a change in the perception of the condition, as ‘it affects their whole life’. 

Tinnitus is described as the sensation of hearing a sound when there is no external source. Someone with tinnitus may hear ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling or other noises.

New research demonstrates that tinnitus impacts 1 in 7 adults across the UK. 80% of those who have the condition agreed it had led to them experiencing low mood or anxiety.

Tinnitus can have a grave impact on the mental health of those who suffer, with 1 in 5 experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm in the last year.

Emyr Williams is a long term sufferer of tinnitus who now uses a hearing aid

Emyr Williams, who lives in Nercwys in Flintshire, spoke about the day-to-day effects of tinnitus.  He said: “It’s a condition that affects your whole life, there is an awful sound in the background all of the time. 

“Prior to treatment, I used to avoid going to social events such as concerts because I thought, what’s the point if I can’t enjoy the evening and hear friends properly?”

Following a diagnosis 7 years ago, Mr Williams now wears a hearing aid and says it has been “transformative”. 

Mr Williams says that it is “hard for people to imagine” what living with tinnitus feels like as it is an “invisible” condition. 

“One of the most important things is to raise awareness that those who live with tinnitus will not necessarily have any clear indication, such as a hearing aid, to show that they do.” 

Raising awareness

A Cardiff-based audiologist has raised concerns over how tinnitus is perceived within the public and health professions. 

Audiologist Sonja Jones from Tinnitus UK, a charity that supports those living with the condition, says "more must be done" to ensure that those affected by tinnitus receive “bespoke treatment” to help them navigate the difficulties of life with the condition.

Ms Jones also noted that it is “very often” the case where health professionals say that nothing can be done about the condition. 

“It's really important that we can ensure that health professionals have appropriate training and are very happy to reach out to the likes of audiologists to learn more.”

Those suffering from the condition can receive a wide range of treatments depending on their situation. Often, those diagnosed will be offered cognitive behavioural therapy, relaxation therapy, sound enrichment or in some cases, a hearing aid. 

Speaking about the “invisible” nature of the condition, Ms Jones said: “People never go and get an MOT for their hearing, in the same way, that they would do for their eyesight because they feel that they can fill in the gaps of communication with body language”

As someone who has been diagnosed with the condition, Ms Jones urged those who believe they are suffering as a result of tinnitus to contact their GP and access the resources available on the Tinnitus UK website.

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