After Tinnitus Awareness Week - What To Do Now

Tinnitus can be a range of noises or just one. Awareness that tinnitus is a condition and not a myth has persuaded the medical profession to take another look. Give your Doctor and the hospital Audiology Department as much information as you can, so that they can learn.

1) Do you have tinnitus? Do you have a hearing issue? They do not necessarily exist together. Ask for a referral to your local Tinnitus Clinic. The more people who ask for them, the more likely the Health Centre will start one in your area. Not forgetting the private clubs that have done a wonderful job for years in bringing tinnitus to medical attention.

2) Find your local Sensory Loss Team, usually part of the County Council in the UK. Depending where you come from, the team names differ. They may have lumped together Deaf Services and the hard-of-hearing because of budget cuts. It is not ideal but it is the appointment that you want. You have to be a bit persistent as the person who answers the phone may never have heard of tinnitus. Once you get an appointment and the wait is from 6 days to 6 months, depending on clinical need, they will assess you. Some charities that specialise in deaf and hard-of-hearing issues have funding to do assessments and will often give you more time. They can be found easily from an internet search. Make a list of everything you want to ask. It is surprising how much you can forget when under pressure.

3) Can you get state welfare benefits such as DLA (Disability Living Allowance) on tinnitus? Yes but it is very specialist. If tinnitus does not bother you particularly, please leave the application for the more severely affected. Be very quick. It is being phased out. Awards of DLA for tinnitus are rare. If it is affecting your life, don't let that put you off. But it is tough and you need support from family, friends, work colleagues, anyone basically who can give moral support.

4) Keep a diary for three months and see when your tinnitus flares up or is worse. Try and identify any patterns in your general health or work. The diary is useful evidence for a DLA application, especially if you have to go to Tribunal. Most government assessors have no clue about tinnitus, so expect to be refused. Appeal. Ask a deaf/hearing charity what they think about your chances of award. The decision to carry on is always yours which is why you need the moral support. You could visit a FBSHAA Hearing Aid Audiologist (Fellow of the British Society of Hearing Aid Acousticians). It is about getting as much evidence as you can to give yourself the best chance of award.

5) Read a book by four Professors, Andersson, Baguley, McKenna and McFerran called 'Tinnitus, A Multidisciplinary Approach', recommended for all hearing-aid audiologists and the curious hard-of-hearing person. For an academic book, it is quite readable. One Audiologist said he had read it three times! If you are lucky you might hear Professor McKenna at an audiology conference or a deaf charity event (Action on Hearing Loss) where he tries to spread the word. He has been trying to roll out tinnitus and suddenly people are taking notice. Better late than never!

6) Some people take normal dosages of vitamin pills, such as B6 for nerves. A website in the US is very informative about the causes of tinnitus and the lady owner has reduced her tinnitus symptoms. No one person can tell you what to take orally. It may or may not work for you. The usual disclaimers about pre-existing medical conditions and checking what else you take, apply here as well. A long-term study is needed. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has a history of hearing studies.

7) Join likeminded people? One client complained that it was a case of someone else's tinnitus being worse than hers. It is a difficult call and again up to you. At least the medical profession is now taking it seriously.

8) Tinnitus hearing-aids. Still in its infancy, the theory is for tinnitus caused by constant loud sound. The theory is about the brain noticing incoming sound and producing its own to counteract it. Talk to your Audiologist. US-based hearing-aid manufacturers started producing solutions via hearing-aids in 2009.

Best of luck in your research. Tinnitus differs for everyone because of ear shape and size so just stick to what you feel and remember, you are teaching the medical profession to give a measured, considered response to tinnitus.

Deborah Jeffrey runs Hearing Market. She met many people who are affected by tinnitus whilst interviewing people for Disability Living Allowance (UK state welfare benefit) on hearing loss. She is involved with hearing-aids as an end user and is determined to make hearing-aids as usual as wearing glasses, better even as they are invisible.