Most of us have experienced it at one time or another: a seemingly incessant ringing or buzzing in the ears that comes out of nowhere and takes forever to go away. Unfortunately, for individuals suffering tinnitus, the ringing never stops. Derived from a Latin root meaning to “tinkle or ring like a bell,” tinnitus is defined as the sensation of sound not produced by an external source.
Caused primarily by constant exposure to high decibel noise (although injury, illness, and ototoxic medication have been known to trigger it), tinnitus can cause loss of sleep or depression, and interfere with concentration. In extreme cases, there have even been instances of suicide related to tinnitus. And for all the people it affects, tinnitus is a medical enigma with no cure. Pharmaceuticals can only mask the symptoms. To complicate matters, we are living in an ever-expanding society that is only getting louder due to closer living spaces, city noise, air traffic, and recreational noise. Is there any doubt that the number of tinnitus sufferers will only increase numbers.
Fortunately, there are organizations like the American Tinnitus Association (ATA). Founded in 1971 by tinnitus sufferer Charles Unice, MD, the ATA has actively worked toward increasing both public and professional awareness of this growing problem through targeted educational efforts. This year, in its efforts to cure this condition, ATA will be observing the second annual National Tinnitus Week (May 21 through May 28).
The purpose of the event is to not only educate others on the causes of tinnitus, but to emphasize the necessity of research, treatment, and prevention.. The ATA also encourages people to get involved by writing letters to elected officials and local newspapers, as well as scheduling awareness-raising events in the local communities, and talking to friends and family about tinnitus. For additional information, visit the ATA Web site at www.ata.org.
This is a timely opportunity for hearing industry professionals (audiologists, dispensers, and manufacturers) to unite their efforts to reach out and educate the lay community and each other about the issues surrounding tinnitus—its treatment and prevention. By participating in these efforts, hearing professionals will not only assist in educating the public about a growing condition, but could bring in a positive interest in hearing health care options, such as available tinnitus hearing instruments, earmolds, and other hearing protection devices. Also, through involvement in print and televised media, awareness campaigns, and public outreach programs (such as offering earplugs and hearing protection literature) at recreational hearing venues—such as concerts and sporting events—a cure for tinnitus might be in sight.
If you would like to further discuss these matters, please drop by our booth (#363) at this year’s American Academy of Audiology meeting in Washington DC. We look forward to meeting you.
Rogena Schuyler Silverman