Aug 3, 2007

LONDON — The Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID), the UK’s largest non-profit organization for deaf and hard-of-hearing people, has established a new Web site and has reported on a recent RNID study involving tinnitus. The study, conducted in February, reportedly indicates that about 7 million British citizens (or about 1 in 7) have experienced the symptoms of tinnitus, but 70% of general practitioners surveyed have never had any training on the condition.

The charity found that 15% of people surveyed —which equates to more than 7 million people across the UK—had experienced tinnitus, often described as ringing, whistling, humming or buzzing in the ears or head, for more than a day. The research is drawn from interviews of approximately 2,000 adults, ages 15+ years of age in Great Britain (excludes Northern Ireland). Previous estimates by the Medical Research Council (MRC) had shown that 4.7 million people (10% of the population) experience tinnitus.

Yet although RNID research has found that tinnitus can cause severe distress and suffering—disrupting people’s work, relationships and even their sex lives—less than one-third of doctors surveyed say they have had any training on the condition.

RNID research published in February 2006 found that, of 890 people with tinnitus who were surveyed, 41% said the condition had a negative effect on their personal relationships, with 27% blaming the damage to their relationship on a reduced sex drive, and 36% on a lack of understanding from their partner. Two-in-five (42%) respondents said their tinnitus had a negative effect on their work life. For a brief report, see the January 1, 2007 HR Insider.

The organization has launched a new Web service with information to help those with tinnitus understand the condition and advice on simple techniques and equipment to manage it. It is also calling for GPs to take a more understanding and holistic approach to patients with tinnitus, directing those with mild tinnitus to the organization for help, as well as referring those whose condition has a severe impact on their lives to an ear, nose, and throat specialists in England.

“Tinnitus can be a debilitating condition for many people, leaving them feeling isolated and stressed—with sometimes disastrous consequences for their work and personal lives,” says RNID Communications Manager Brian Lamb. “This can be compounded by a lack of understanding amongst GPs who aren’t always aware of how to help patients manage their tinnitus, and may simply turn them away with no advice other than to ‘learn to live with it. But if you have tinnitus you are not alone. Simple techniques and equipment —from relaxation tips to sound therapies that provide distraction from the noises of tinnitus—can be used to manage the condition.”

The August issue of The Hearing Review will offer three new articles on tinnitus.

New Leadership. RNID has appointed Jackie Ballard as its new chief executive. Ballard, formerly with RSPCA (an animal rights organization similar to PETA), takes over for John Low who is the new chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation. She will take up the position on October 22.

“We are delighted to have been able to recruit someone with the exceptional ability and experience of Jackie Ballard to lead RNID through its next stage of development,” says RNID Chairman James Strachan. “As well as being an accomplished leader in the voluntary sector, Jackie brings her huge experience of political affairs and a public service background to the cause of changing the world for deaf and hard of hearing people. Jackie is joining an award-winning organization that was recently acknowledged as one of the leading lobbies in the world for deaf and hard of hearing people. I am confident that she will build on that success.”

“I am delighted to be moving to RNID after five highly enjoyable years at the RSPCA,” says Ballard. “It has been an honor and a privilege to work for the RSPCA and it’s very reassuring that I’m moving on at a time when the Society is in such a healthy position and has achieved so much, particularly our successful campaign for the new Animal Welfare Act. I’m ready for a new challenge and very much looking forward to my new role at RNID. I count myself extremely lucky to be moving from one fantastic organization to another.”

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