Tinnitus & Industrial Deafness - Advice & Infomation

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Tea Party to raise money for Tinnitus

Rock band the Inspiral Carpets recently held a tea party to raise money for the British Tinnitus Association following the death of their drummer who had suffered from tinnitus for almost twenty years before taking his own life as a result of the stress caused by it. The band who were part of the ‘Madchester’ scene in the 1990s, held the party at The Smiths room in the legendary Salford Lads’ Club and aimed to raise £500 for the BTA, and while final figures are still being added up, it appears the event was far more successful than they’d hoped, raising at least half of the amount before the event even started. Craig Gill had joined the band at the age of fourteen and was described by his band mates as the ‘beating heart’ of the group. Tragically he took his own life at his home in Saddleworth last year after suffering from the debilitating effects of the condition for twenty years. Tinnitus is often described as a ringing in the ears, although those affected may hear other noises such as whistling, hissing or humming. It is most often caused by prolonged or frequent exposure to loud noise and so musicians, particularly those in the rock and pop genres are in a particularly high-risk profession. There are not any medicines which have been shown to effectively treat tinnitus, but that does not mean that it cannot be treated. There are medicines available that can treat the underlying cause; such as an ear infection, but in most cases the effects of tinnitus can be minimised by making changes to your...

Look after your ears at festivals

If like many thousands of others you are planning to go and enjoy some live music this summer, be careful that you don’t unwittingly endanger your hearing. If you have ever returned from a loud festival or concert and found that your ears are still ringing then you will have a basic understanding of what Tinnitus is; but imagine that the ringing never goes away. According to the charity Action on Hearing Loss, the average nightclub has a sound level of over 100 decibels, whereas the average for a rock concert is 110 decibels. Bearing in mind that exposure to noise levels above 85db is damaging to the ear, it doesn’t take an expert to work out that spending a few days exposed to very loud noise is potentially very dangerous to your hearing. While we understand that the volume of the music is a crucial part of the atmosphere of a concert or festival, there are a variety of ways we can minimise the risk of hearing damage while still enjoying the experience. Action on Hearing Loss has five top tips: Don’t stand too near the speakers for a prolonged amount of time Take breaks between acts Make sure you keep your body hydrated to increase blood circulation and keep your body and ears healthy Wear ear plugs Make sure your children wear ear defenders. Don’t ear plugs take the fun away? In a nutshell; no. Modern ear plugs are designed to reduce the harmful sound frequencies without reducing the quality of the sound, so you can enjoy the music without the risk of hearing loss. While many...

The “Hum in the Drum”

One of this year’s most critically acclaimed movies has been the romantic musical disguised as a car-chase thriller: Baby Driver. While audiences have marvelled at the range and standard of the film’s eclectic and marvellous soundtrack, it hides a far deeper and darker reasoning for the range of music played. One of the main stars of the film is a getaway driver who suffers from tinnitus as a result of a childhood accident. The soundtrack to the film is based on the salvational soundtrack to his life that he creates in order to drown out the constant distraction of the debilitating condition. Tinnitus can manifest itself in a variety of noises, but is often described as a ringing, whistling or buzzing within the ear when there is no other source of sound. It can develop as a result of damage to the tiny hairs that act as sensory receptors within the ears. This damage is most often caused by exposure to loud noise; either over a long period of time, or exposure to extremely loud noise over a shorter period of time. According to Dr LaGuinn Sherlock, a clinical audiologist currently researching the effects of tinnitus on concentration, tinnitus can be described using the analogy of a dark room: “Picture a dark room, if you add one candle to the room you’ll notice it straight away. However if you light a candle in a room already full of light, it is less noticeable.” In essence, tinnitus is a sense of noise that fills a missing gap, even when there is nothing to cause it. It is important to remember...

Headphones that can detect early signs of tinnitus

A British company has unveiled a prototype product that could soon have a far-reaching impact on the early diagnosis and treatment of hearing conditions including tinnitus. Cambridge-based engineering and design consultancy Plextek created the product with that can be integrated into standard, everyday headphones. By syncing the technology with a smart phone app, the user can be alerted to a potential hearing issue and encouraged to seek advice or support well before most people would be aware of any problem. The product works by being able to accurately monitor subtle changes within the Auditory Evoked Potentials (AEP): a signal sent from the brain by an acoustical stimulus that measures an individual’s hearing ability. In tests using a standard laptop and USB audio card, it was proved that it was possible to record ABR waveforms using a range of everyday headphones including the currently popular in-ear buds, as well as more traditional headphones from producers such as Sennheiser and Sony. For those who work in noisy environments hearing protection is essential, and should be provided by employers as a matter of course. Anyone who frequently spends time in an environment where volume levels exceed specific levels should be provided not only with Personal Protective Equipment, but also systems and procedures to minimise the risk of hearing damage, including health monitoring. However there are large numbers of people who work in environments where noise levels aren’t monitored, and they are less likely to have regular hearing tests. The development of a product that can fit with users’ existing headphones could give those people an early warning of any potential hearing issues,...

What is Industrial Deafness?

Industrial Deafness is also known as Occupational Deafness or Noise Induced Hearing Loss. It is a condition that results in the loss of hearing – in many cases over a long period of time – which occurs as a consequence of a person’s working environment. There is a range of different types of hearing loss that can be caused by noise in the workplace. Some types involve temporary loss of hearing, whereas in other cases the hearing loss can be permanent. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 is an act that has been put in place to protect workers from having to suffer from the effects of high noise levels. Naturally some workplaces are noisier than others, but it might surprise you that some of the quietest workplaces actually have the highest incidents of industrial deafness situations; call centres may seem quiet to a visitor, as the employees use headsets, but the damage can be done to a worker’s hearing by a fault in the headset which only the user would experience. At the other end of the scale a foundry might seem like a very noisy place indeed to work, but through the use of suitable personal protective equipment the risk of industrial deafness can be minimised. Regardless of the place of work, or the nature of business being carried out, employers have a responsibility to minimise the risk of industrial deafness if there are consistent noise levels of 80db or above. Types of industrial Deafness Acoustic Shock is when an employee is suddenly subjected to a loud noise that can temporarily or permanently damage the...

‘Plug’em’ campaign launched by British Tinnitus Association

The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) has launched a new campaign called ‘Plug’em’, which is aimed at increasing the awareness of hearing damage, particularly among those who enjoy live music, night-clubs and concerts, along with those who work in the entertainment industry. The BTA has recruited ambassadors from within the music industry to help increase awareness of the problems of tinnitus and how it can be avoided. DJ, producer and musician Mark Ronson was swift to sign up saying: “I’ve had tinnitus for over 10 years and it affects me 24/7. I wish I had been smart enough to Plug’em earlier.” Radio presenter and DJ Anne Savage said “One thing I’d tell my younger self – tinnitus is a lot less cool than wearing earplugs. Don’t take healthy hearing for granted.” Work If you work somewhere noisy; i.e. where the decibel level is over 80dB(A), you should be trained and educated to understand the risks involved in working in a noisy environment, and provided with suitable hearing protection if needs be. If you work somewhere where the noise level is over 85dB(A) it is imperative that hearing protection is provided, along with proper instruction on how it should be used. Leisure The trouble is that the rules only apply to those who work within the noisy environments; visitors, guests, concert-goers etc are not forced to wear any protection, or to take any precautions to avoid damage to their hearing. Maximum Exposure Time Employers have a duty to protect the health and welfare of their employees, and that includes making sure that they are not exposed to dangerous noise levels. To...

Spandau Ballet Brothers both suffering from Tinnitus

Pop stars and actors Gary and Martin Kemp, famous for playing in the 1980s new romantic pop band Spandau Ballet, as well as their acting roles in ‘The Krays’ and ‘Eastenders’, have blamed 40 years in the music industry for their cases of Tinnitus. When recently interviewed for a national newspaper Martin, the younger of the two brothers said: “There is a whistling in my ears all of the time, during the day I don’t notice it, but as soon as it goes quiet, or I’m in bed, I can hear it. It drives me a bit crazy sometimes.” What is Tinnitus, and what are the symptoms? Tinnitus is the perception of sound within your ears that is not caused by any external source. The most common symptom is a high-pitched whistling, hissing, buzzing or ringing within the ears. In some cases the sufferer constantly hears the noise, whereas in other cases it will come and go. What causes Tinnitus? In a nutshell, Tinnitus is usually brought on through long-term exposure to high noise levels. It can be instigated through exposure to a sudden loud noise, but in most cases such as the Kemp brothers, it takes years of exposure to high noise levels to develop the condition. Can it be treated? There aren’t currently any medicines which have been shown to effectively treat tinnitus, but that does not mean that it cannot be treated. There are medicines available that can treat the underlying cause; such as an ear infection, but in most cases the effects of tinnitus can be minimised by making changes to your lifestyle. Relaxation has...

Noise Exposure and Hearing Damage

Noise is measured in units called decibels, shown as the figure dB. While most sounds can nowadays be measured using sensitive machinery, the human ear can only detect sounds within a certain range of frequencies. Very high frequencies such as the noise bats make to guide themselves about can often not be detected by the human ear. Similarly with very low frequencies, such as the noises created by whales and in some cases even elephants. In order to account for the way in which the human ear responds to different frequencies a weighting system is used, referred to as A-weighting. In cases where peak noise levels are measured they use what is called a C-weighting. Noise can contain a huge range of different frequencies, however when looking to control noise exposure, low frequency noise needs to be treated differently to high frequency noise. It is crucial when dealing with a wide range of frequencies, such as in the entertainment industry, that the correct type of hearing protection is used to eliminate the dangerous frequencies identified within a noise risk assessment. Noise regulations require employers to take certain action at specific noise levels. This includes the levels of noise employees are exposed to over the course of a working day, and also the maximum noise levels to which employees are exposed in a working day. These values are as follows: Lower Exposure Action Values (LEAV): Daily or weekly exposure of 80dB Peak sound pressure of 135dB Upper Exposure Action Values: Daily or weekly exposure of 85dB Peak sound pressure of 137dB To give an example of the noise levels above,...

Acoustic Trauma – who’s at risk?

As we understand more that loud noise damages the ears, we are all becoming better educated when it comes to the risks of hearing loss. Whether it is constant exposure to loud noise, or the occasional burst of sound, the ears are unforgiving when they are damaged. What is Acoustic Trauma? Acoustic Trauma, also referred to as acoustic shock, occurs when the ear is subjected to very loud noise; either suddenly, or over a long period of time. Common examples would be explosions, gunshots, or shouting at close proximity. When using a telephone headset you may be at risk if the person to whom you are talking suddenly shouts, or if some kind of malfunction causes loud, sharp feedback. If the ears are not protected then the noise can cause irreparable damage such as a perforated eardrum, tinnitus, temporary loss of hearing or even permanent loss of hearing, How to prevent acoustic shock In the case of working in a very noisy environment, the risk of suffering from acoustic shock can be minimised through the use of personal protective equipment such as ear-defenders or earplugs. However, in a situation where the employee wears a headset to communicate with others, the headset must be fitted with noise limiters. These work by automatically reducing the volume of the conversation, or simply not transmitting noises above 118 decibels to the user of the equipment. Who is at risk? Anyone who uses a headset as a part of their job can be at risk of suffering from acoustic trauma; those who work in call-centres are particularly at risk due to the high proportion...

Are you suffering from hearing loss?

As a nation we are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of hearing loss and the fact that in almost all cases, once the hearing is damaged, the damage is irreversible. If you are concerned about your hearing, whether or not you work in a noisy environment, you should speak to your doctor about getting a hearing test. This is the best way to discover if you have a problem with your hearing and if so, the likely causes and potential treatments available. Types of hearing tests While your general practitioner or practice nurse can examine your ears, it is most likely that if you are concerned about your hearing you will be sent to a specialist to conduct tests to find out how well your ears are functioning and to investigate their ability to detect different sound levels. There are four common types of hearing test available. These include: AOAE (Automated Otoacoustic Emissions) test which involves a computer which is attached to an earpiece that plays clicking noises and measures the response from the ears AABR (Automated Auditory Brainstem Response) tests where sensors are placed on the head and neck to check the response to sounds being played through headphones Pure Tone Audiometry tests where sounds of different volumes and frequencies are played through headphones and a button is pressed by the subject when, or if, the sounds are heard Bone Conduction Tests where a vibrating noise generator is placed behind the ear and presses against the bone to see how well the hearing (auditory) nerve is functioning If it is proved that your hearing has been damaged,...

Hearing loss – the silent menace

Throughout our daily lives we are exposed to noise. Hearing is one of our senses that guide us through the world, but excessive noise can cause long term, irreversible damage to our hearing. Am I at risk of damaging my hearing? Depending on the type of work you do, it is likely that you are putting your hearing at risk if any of the following situations seem familiar: You work with noise that is as loud as a busy street or a crowded restaurant You have to raise your voice to be heard if you are more than 2 metres from your colleague You use powered tools or machinery for more than half an hour per day You work in a noisy industry such as construction, mining, demolition, forging, woodworking or engineering You work with the noise of sudden impacts or explosive forces You have muffled hearing by the end of the working day What are the early signs? Depending on the severity of the hearing loss, and the amount of exposure to loud noise that you have suffered, symptoms may include: Difficulty in holding conversations due to limited hearing Difficulty using the telephone Trouble identifying particular sounds within conversation hence confusion of similar words Tinnitus: ringing in the ears, either permanently or intermittently How to protect yourself Your employer has a responsibility to minimise your exposure to loud noise and should provide you with a system of work that enables you to perform your duty safely. If you are provided with hearing protection you must ensure that you wear it properly and make sure it is in good...

Are you suffering from Tinnitus?

If you can hear sounds that others can’t; such as a buzzing, ringing or whistling noise in your ears, it is quite possible that you are suffering from a condition called Tinnitus. What is Tinnitus? Tinnitus is the perception of sound within your head that is not caused by an external source. While there is a condition called Objective Tinnitus when the sounds are caused by a physical problem within or near to the ear itself; such as a narrowing of blood vessels, which means that a doctor with a stethoscope may also be able to hear the noise, in most cases the noises heard by a Tinnitus sufferer are only audible to them. The noise can come and go, but in a lot of cases it is permanent; often causing difficulty with sleeping, and as a result leading to increased levels of stress. What causes Tinnitus? In most cases Tinnitus is caused by exposure to loud noise. This can be a single very loud noise such as an explosion or a gunshot, but in many cases is caused by long-term exposure to noises above the safe level for human ears to deal with. In times past it was mainly those who worked in very noisy environments that were most likely to develop the problem, but as things have evolved, it is now frequently people who work in generally very quiet environments, such as call-centres, who are most at risk. This can simply be due to having volumes on phone headsets set too high, or in some cases can come from acoustic shock when a sudden high-volume noise comes...

Man driven ‘mad’ by tinnitus murders his ex-partner, then takes own life

A 44 year old man who killed his ex-partner and then battered her son, before taking his own life, had been suffering from chronic tinnitus in the months leading up to the attacks. Vincent Nagle, threw himself from a motorway bridge in Nuthall, Nottinghamshire after attacking his former partner and her son at the home they had previously shared. He was later killed when he was struck by a lorry after the fall. Police say they are not looking for anyone else in connection with the events. His sister said after the events that he had been suffering from acute tinnitus for several months before the attack and that it was driving him mad. Tinnitus can be mild or severe, in some cases it can just be a very quiet background noise; ringing, hissing and buzzing are all common sounds heard by tinnitus sufferers. In some cases the noise and the distress caused by tinnitus can be unbearable, but help can be at hand. There is a range of treatments available including drug-based treatments, psychological treatments, and mechanical treatments, all designed to minimise the suffering caused by this potentially debilitating condition. Tinnitus is often caused by exposure to loud noise; either occasional or long-term exposure can cause hearing damage of which tinnitus is often a side-effect. If you or someone you care for sufferers from tinnitus, there is help and support available from a range of bodies including the NHS, the RNID and a lot of information and support from the HSE. If you think that your tinnitus was caused by exposure to loud noise during your employment, you...

Your responsibilities when it comes to hearing protection

It is common knowledge these days that once hearing is damaged, there is very little that can be done to make it better again. Employers in all types of occupations have a responsibility to ensure that workers are not exposed to dangerous noise levels, and to provide protection for those who are exposed, so that damage to their hearing is minimised. There are many ways that employers can manage the risks of hearing damage, but in many cases these will only have the positive effect intended if the employees play their part in the process. According to the Health and Safety Executive there are a few key rules to which all employees should adhere: Cooperation: When your employer provides you with equipment or systems to minimise your exposure to damaging noise levels, you must use them appropriately. Wear the protection provided: You should ensure that if you are provided with personal protective equipment, you should use it as it was intended, and not remove it while in noisy areas. Care for PPE: You should take care not to damage any PPE given to you and ensure that you are using it properly – if you are unsure you must check with your employer. Report any problems: If your PPE doesn’t work, doesn’t fit, or is in any way not suitable for the purpose, you have a responsibility to notify your employer. There is a range of methods used for hearing protection; in many cases solutions can be found which reduce the noise, rather than increase the protection from the noise, but where loud noises can not be avoided, Personal...

Tinnitus treatment during sleep hailed as breakthrough

There are a variety of treatments for Tinnitus on the market, but a new development claims to be able to provide relief far more quickly than other treatments. The Levo System for tinnitus therapy uses an Ipod to deliver sounds to the ears during sleep; a time when the body is most responsive and easily influenced by sound therapies. Patients go through a full tinnitus and hearing assessment before the treatment is personalised to match the type of sound that they experience. This ‘sound matching’ stimulates the hearing centre of the brain to help it get used to the tinnitus sound, and so it reduces the volume and annoyance caused by the noise. Tinnitus is the term used for hearing sounds that are created within your body, as opposed to coming from outside the body. One of the most common descriptions is ‘ringing in the ears’ but it can also take the form of buzzing, whistling, humming, or hissing. Some people hear sounds similar to music and others hear noises that beat in time with their pulse (pulsatile tinnitus). Tinnitus often coincides with deterioration in your hearing, yet sometimes brings additional sensitivity to everyday sounds (hyperacusis). Many people experience short periods of tinnitus when they have been exposed to loud noises such as after a music concert or a visit to night-club. Some people suffer from it due to loud noises in their workplace. Sadly some people suffer from tinnitus all or most of the time; in one or both ears. This can be caused by: Inner ear damage caused by repeated exposure to loud noise Ménière’s disease –...

The Ears: How sound reaches the brain

The human ear is made up of three distinct parts; the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear gathers sound waves, the middle ear passes them on as vibrations to the inner ear, where they are converted into nerve impulses that the brain interprets as sounds. The Outer Ear The Outer Ear consists of an external flap of cartilage called the ‘pinna’, and the ear canal, along which sound waves are funnelled to the eardrum. The ear canal is around one inch long and is slightly arched in the middle. The entrance to the ear canal is protected by a layer of wax (also known as cerumen), which is secreted by small glands in the wall of the canal. Hairs and wax trap any tiny particles of dust and dirt, preventing them from reaching the canal or entering the eardrum. The Middle Ear Vibrations of the eardrum are passed on by three tiny bones of the middle ear; the hammer, the anvil and the stirrup; also collectively known as ‘ossicles’. The Eustachian tube leads from here to the back of the throat, where it is closed by a valve. The Inner Ear The inner ear consists of the cochlea and the auditory nerve. The cochlea contains three parallel channels of fluid that are vibrated by the stirrup. Waves travel from one end along one channel round the coils of the cochlea, and return along another channel to the other end. It is the pressure changes in the fluid that trigger impulses to the brain. The Brain From the cochlea, impulses travel along the auditory...

Ear Protection in the Entertainment Industry

Most of us are aware that frequent or prolonged exposure to loud noise can damage our hearing, and that once it has been damaged there is no going back to how it was in the past. Employers are aware of this, and those who employ people who are regularly exposed to loud noise have a responsibility to protect those workers and provide suitable equipment and procedures to minimise the danger. So what happens when loud noise is an important part of the spectacle – such as a rock concert – where people attend because of the loud noise? Occasional exposure to loud noise is a part of daily life, and our ears can cope with it every now and then. So attending the occasional rock concert is unlikely to cause too much damage. Spare a moment though for those who work in that kind of environment; the performers, the audio technicians, even the roadies, who are exposed to rock concert noise every day of their working lives. These people have to take hearing damage seriously so that their careers are not cut short by issues relating to hearing loss. The use of ear-defenders is widespread in the music and entertainment industry, with different types available for different needs of the users. What types of ear defenders are out there? Ear plugs are inserted to block the ear canal. They may be pre-molded (preformed) or moldable (foam ear plugs). Ear plugs are sold as disposable products or reusable plugs. Custom molded ear plugs are also available. Semi-insert ear plugs which consist of two ear plugs held over the ends of...

Noise – what you need to know

Loud noise in the workplace can cause damage to people’s hearing and can also present risks to safety of all employees. The Control of Noise at Work Regulations were designed to protect employees from dangerous noise levels and the potential dangers that loud noise can create. Hearing Damage Being subjected to loud noise in the workplace can result in permanent and disabling hearing loss; either through gradual exposure to loud noise over a long period of time, but also in the case of sudden, extremely loud noises. Hearing loss is not the only issue, some people may develop Tinnitus; a ringing, buzzing or whistling in the ears that can disturb sleep and lower quality of life. Safety Noise at work can also interfere with communication between workers, make warnings harder to hear and also reduce people’s awareness of their surroundings; all putting people at risk of injury, or even death. According to the Health and Safety Executive, The Control of Noise at Work Regulations require employers to eliminate or reduce risks from noise at work. Once the level of risk has been established through a thorough risk assessment, companies should: Take action to reduce noise exposure Provide employees with personal hearing protection Make sure the legal limits on noise are not exceeded Maintain and ensure the use of equipment provided to control noise risks Provide employees with information, instruction and suitable training Carry out health surveillance to monitor employees’ hearing Control the Risks Wherever there is noise in a workplace, the employer should look for alternative processes, equipment or methods which could make the work quieter or expose people...