"I should have worn earplugs." - Protection warning by leading tinnitus charity follows "shocking" study result
- Published on 10 February 2023
tinnitus awareness week
A new report from Tinnitus UK (formerly the British Tinnitus Association) reveals that 35% of people with tinnitus blame exposure to loud noise...but, "shockingly", 39% of respondents exposed to noise at work “never” used hearing protection.
Dramatic examples of tinnitus sufferers are cited by the charity in its effort to get across the message that people should protect their hearing to avoid not only tinnitus but, crucially, hearing loss as well.
One such sufferer is a record company employee and music fan, Jo*, who said of his "louder-than-everything" ringing in the ears: "I take full responsibility for it, I should have worn earplugs for gigs - I didn't do it until it was too late and the ringing didn't stop.”
Another, Wesley, has had tinnitus and hearing loss since his time as an armed forces aircrew worker. His condition led to a medical discharge from the service. "I try my best to ignore it but it can often be very loud when trying to sleep. At work it becomes a problem when I have to join in a meeting, do online training or just talk to someone. With the Covid-19 lockdown I have learnt that I have become very reliant on lip reading and if I can't lip read then I do not take in what is being said,” admits the sufferer.
No bigger preventable cause of tinnitus
The report, ‘A lot to lose: noise exposure and tinnitus’, includes new research of almost 800 people with tinnitus. It reveals that over a third (35%) of people believe their tinnitus was caused by loud noise exposure. This could mean that 2.7 million adults in the UK had their condition triggered by noise. Surprisingly, twice as many men (48%) as women (24%) claim noise exposure as a trigger.
"Shockingly, four out of ten (39%) respondents who were exposed to noise at work “never” used hearing protection and only a quarter (24%) “always” or “sometimes” used hearing protection," says Tinnitus UK.
Caroline Savage, Interim Chief Executive of the charity, said: “Noise exposure is the single biggest preventable cause of tinnitus, and it is clear from our research that people appear to be unaware of the risks. If you’re doing something that’s loud, even for a couple of minutes, use hearing protection. When it’s loud… 'Plug’em' is our very clear message.”
She added “We’re not here to stop people taking part in activities that they enjoy, but to make sure that they enjoy them safely. We want protecting your ears to be second nature - the same way we put on sunscreen and sunglasses in the summer or belt up when we get in the car. There should be no stigma around using ear plugs or ear defenders – we only have one pair of ears, and damage to our hearing is irreversible.”
A lot to lose: noise exposure and tinnitus
The new report from Tinnitus UK, marking the start of #TinnitusWeek 2023 (February 6- 12), calls for people to protect their ears, which will reduce the damage caused by excessive noise exposure. This damage includes tinnitus and hearing loss, both of which can be permanent.
One in seven adults are affected by tinnitus, points out Tinnitus UK. This condition causes the perception of noise when there is no external source. Studies suggest the number of people with tinnitus will grow by half a million over the next decade. There is currently no cure for the condition.
"It feels like it's crushing my head."
Just how awful the condition can be is underlined by another account highlighted by the UK tinnitus charity. Rowan*, who believes her tinnitus was caused by noise exposure said: “Tinnitus impacts my day to day. I can always hear it and it can be very distressing when I realise that I am 25 and have to deal with this for the rest of my life. I have to work with either white noise or music. I can never sit in silence. It feels like it's crushing my head. I have to come to terms with the fact that I will never experience true silence again. It’s heartbreaking and it’s exhausting.”
Some names* have been changed to protect privacy
Source: Tinnitus UK