BHI Raises Awareness of Hearing Aids as Potential Therapy to Help Quiet “Ringing in the Ears” During National Tinnitus Awareness Week
Washington, DC, May 3, 2012—The Better Hearing Institute is joining the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) in recognizing National Tinnitus Awareness Week (TAW), May 13 to 19, 2012, and is raising awareness of hearing aids as a potential therapy to help quiet chronic “ringing in the ears.” According to a BHI study published in Hearing Review, 43.5 percent of people with tinnitus were helped at least mildly with hearing aids. And 3 out of 10 were helped moderately-to-substantially. For those whose audiologists used best practices in fitting hearing aids, the figure jumped to 50 percent. There currently is no known cure for tinnitus.
Often referred to as “ringing in the ears,” tinnitus is the perception of a sound that has no external source. Tinnitus sufferers commonly describe the noise as a ringing, humming, buzzing, and/or cricket-like. Tinnitus can be constant or intermittent. And it can be heard in one ear, both ears, or in the head. For many who suffer from it, tinnitus can be a source of endless torment and a continual drain on quality-of-life.
Nearly thirty million Americans—almost twice as many as previously believed—suffer from persistent, chronic tinnitus, according to the BHI study. That’s about ten percent of the U.S. population. And for people ages 65 to 84, that number jumps to almost 27 percent. Tinnitus is now the number one service-connected disability of returning military personnel from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The good news is there are effective therapies available to help people cope,” said Sergei Kochkin, PhD, BHI’s Executive Director. “In particular, we found that a variety of sound therapies and/or hearing aids in conjunction with counseling can help. But we need to raise awareness that effective therapies are available, including the use of hearing aids.”
Exposure to extreme noise is the leading cause of tinnitus, and people with tinnitus almost always have accompanying hearing loss. In fact, the study found that respondents with more severe hearing loss were more likely to have tinnitus. Yet, more than a third (39%) of people with hearing loss do not seek help specifically because they have tinnitus.
“Persistent, chronic tinnitus is a highly intrusive, increasingly common condition that can interfere with a person’s cognition, ability to interact with family and friends, and basic life functions,” said Jennifer Born, Director of Public Affairs at the American Tinnitus Association (ATA). “Much progress is still needed in understanding tinnitus and finding a cure—which is why Tinnitus Awareness Week is such an important effort.”
As baby boomers age, people listen to portable music players at high volumes, and more soldiers return from combat, the incidence of both hearing loss and tinnitus is expected to grow.
People suffering with tinnitus can find the latest information on their condition and methods for coping with it in an authoritative eGuide, “Your Guide to Tinnitus.” This 14-page guide covers definitions, causes, the impact of tinnitus, treatments, practical tips for managing tinnitus, and good self-help references.
“We are very pleased to join ATA this year in promoting Tinnitus Awareness Week and hope that our efforts bring us closer to finding a cure,” Kochkin said.
More About Tinnitus
Four in ten people experience their tinnitus more than 80 percent of the time; slightly more than one in four describe their tinnitus as loud; and about one in five describe their tinnitus as disabling or nearly disabling, the BHI study found.
People with tinnitus report that it most often affects their ability to hear (39%), concentrate (26%), and sleep (20%). Yet for many, tinnitus is even more pervasive. Twelve percent of respondents—or 3.6 million people when extrapolated to the general population—say their tinnitus affects leisure activities, social life, personal relationships, and emotional or mental health. Seven percent of respondents—or an estimated 2.1 million people nationwide—indicate that tinnitus affects their ability to work.
How Hearing Aids Help
In addition to improving hearing and communication, hearing aids amplify background sound, so the loudness or prominence of the tinnitus is reduced. Simply taking the focus off the tinnitus means relief for many people. Hearing aids also reduce the stress associated with intensive listening by improving communication, which in turn help relieve tinnitus symptoms.
About Tinnitus Awareness Week
Each year, a week is set aside during Better Hearing Month to focus specifically on increasing public awareness about tinnitus and most importantly the need for increased funding for tinnitus research. This year, ATA is “going for gold” in its efforts to raise awareness and encourage people across the United States and around the world to help educate people about “ringing in the ears.” The premiere TAW 2012 event is the Tour de Tinnitus, a new bike ride fundraiser for the organization that was started last year by long time ATA member Mark Church. His efforts last year spawned great interest and the ride has grown to incorporate five new teams that will participate in four separate rides to raise money to support tinnitus research.
ATA has developed a TAW 2012 section on their website at ATA.org/TAW2012. From requesting proclamations from locally and nationally elected officials, to contacting your local media outlets, sharing tinnitus-related crosswords and posters, ATA has all the information you’ll need to get started in raising some serious tinnitus-awareness!
Founded in 1973, BHI conducts research and engages in hearing health education with the goal of helping people with hearing loss benefit from proper treatment. For more information on hearing loss, visit www.betterhearing.org. To take the BHI Quick Hearing Check, visit www.hearingcheck.org. To participate in the discussion forum, visit www.betterhearing.org, click on “Discussion Forum,” and go to “Welcome!” to register.