Talking about tinnitus: 'It's part of my life'

To mark Tinnitus Awareness Week 2017 (6-12 February) we've teamed up with the British Tinnitus Association to highlight the condition and gather some of the ways those living with tinnitus manage it day-to-day.

Professor Chris Dowrick is a Professor of Primary Medical Care at the University of Liverpool and a GP in a busy Liverpool practice. Here, he provides an insight into his personal and professional experiences of tinnitus.

"I've lived with tinnitus for the past 15 years or so and for me the experience is of a continuous mid-range buzzing noise, mainly in my left ear. It's more obvious when everything is quiet, or when I am tired or stressed. It's there all the time, but usually I can ignore it. I used to worry about it but I don't any more, it's just part of my life. I get my hearing checked every year, and so far so good and although it's a bit reduced I don't yet need to think about the possibility of a hearing aid.

It feels good when there are natural noises which counteract the tinnitus, such as on windy days, or walking beside a turbulent river, or the seashore as the waves wash in and out.

So, as a GP in a busy practice in Liverpool, I am able to help the many patients I see who also have experience of tinnitus. I'm tuned in to thinking about it, and will always take notice when patients mention symptoms related to funny noises they're hearing. Of course it's important for me to keep an eye out for potential problems, such as pulsatile symptoms or associated deafness or dizziness, when I refer them straightaway for a specialist ENT or audiology opinion.

If they have evidence of anxiety or depression I will concentrate with them on managing those problems. But most of the time I can assure patients that although tinnitus is likely to be there for the duration, it is not a serious condition in itself and it is something that we can come to terms with and that can improve. I am happy to share my own experience, which patients generally find reassuring.

I often suggest simple approaches using distracting noises, including having the radio on low at night, or relaxation techniques including yoga , t'ai-chi and (especially) meditation.

My main message is that there is life with tinnitus and it is about finding the ways that work best for you as every patient will have a different coping strategy."

Tinnitus Awareness Week runs from 6-12 February 2017 aiming to get the nation talking about tinnitus and highlight the stories of those living with it. For more information and support please visit the British Tinnitus Association's website.

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