Hear & Now


Have you ever experienced a ringing in your ears after enjoying a gig, a night out, or being exposed to loud noises at work? Usually, this stops after a short while - however, if it continues, you could be suffering from tinnitus.

World-famous guitarist Eric Clapton announced recently that after years of high volume performances, he is suffering from tinnitus. This has left him nervous and embarrassed to perform at concerts. Another famous tinnitus sufferer is bass player Paul Gray, from rock band The Damned – he didn’t leave the house for three years due to the severity of the problem. But, tinnitus doesn’t just affect party goers and rock musicians - it can affect anyone, even children.

Tinnitus is defined as a noise in the head or ears which has no external source. The noise may be heard in one ear, both ears, in the middle of the head, or it may be difficult to pinpoint its exact location. The noise may be low, medium, or high-pitched. There may be a single noise or two or more components. Tinnitus is very common and is reported in all age groups. About 30% of people experience tinnitus at some point in their lives, and the number of people who live with persistent tinnitus is approximately 10%.

Tinnitus is more common in people who already have hearing loss or other ear problems, but it can also be found in people with normal hearing.

There are approximately 1.5 million GP consultations for tinnitus in the UK each year, with an average cost of tinnitus treatment per patient, per year, of £717. This equates to an NHS healthcare bill of £750 million per year. The condition can greatly impact a sufferer’s quality of life, with approximately half of adult patients finding their experience of tinnitus moderately or severely distressing. Specific complaints include intrusive emotional stress, insomnia, depression, auditory perceptual problems, and concentration problems.

Children may report difficulty hearing, problems with sleep, difficulty with attention and concentration at school and at home, and anxiety and emotional issues.

In the many cases, tinnitus is associated with hearing loss, whether due to the natural ageing process or noise exposure - either industrial or recreational. However, factors such as stress, depression, smoking, sleep deprivation, high-volume earphones, drinking alcohol, medication side effects, and even caffeine can all have an impact.

So how can you prevent tinnitus, and is there a cure?

There are many reasons why people experience the condition, and protecting your hearing is the first line of defence. Here are some preventative measures you can take:

  • Lower your music volume - When listening to music, especially through headphones, don’t ramp up the volume to block out other external sounds. Your ears adjust to the levels you listen to, so if you listen to music loudly, you will want to keep listening to it loudly. If you turn the volume down, it might seem too quiet at first, but your ears will gradually adjust. If you aren't sure how loud to listen, get a friend to stand by you when you have your headphones on. If they can hear what you can hear, then it's too loud.
  • Take regular breaks - If you are in a noisy environment, take regular breaks by stepping outside, or= into a quieter room. By taking some time out to let your ears have a rest, you will find that you can handle sustained loud sounds more effectively.
  • Wear ear protection - Frequent, prolonged exposure to loud noise increases the risk of developing or worsening tinnitus, so take care to avoid very loud sounds and, where possible, protect your ears with ear protection equipment.

Currently, there is no cure for tinnitus, but there are many ways to manage the symptoms and reduce the impact.

As it’s Tinnitus Awareness Week, Clare Kewney (Audiologist and Director of Claritas Hearing) joined Gerry and Dave in the studio to discuss this rather annoying and sometimes debilitating issue.

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