Q: My teenage son listens to loud music a lot and suffers from tinnitus. Is there a connection and can anything be done about it?
A: Tinnitus is a distressing and very common hearing disorder, which affects ten per cent of the UK population. The sufferer hears phantom sounds in one or both ears that do not correspond to any external cause. Ringing, whistling, humming and buzzing are typical, according to the British Tinnitus Association (tinnitus.org.uk, tel: 0800 018 0527). Noise may be low or high frequency, loud or soft, and sporadic or a continuous wall of sound.
Tinnitus is seldom a symptom of a serious health disorder but it is wise to consult your GP, who may refer your son to an ear, nose and throat or audiology department.
The causes are not fully understood but exposure to loud noise is clearly a factor. Frequent and/or prolonged loud noise can damage the hearing system and increase the risk of tinnitus or make an existing condition worse.
Young people are increasingly affected. Vivienne Michaels, chief executive of Deafness Research UK (deafnessresearch.org.uk), says, ‘Playing music at high volume through MP 3 players [means] we risk tinnitus and deafness far earlier than would be expected as a result of old age.’
The solution is to turn down the volume on MP3s, etc. And persuade your son that ear plugs are cool: at a Foo Fighters concert recently, savvy fans were all wearing them.
High blood pressure increases the risk of tinnitus, as can existing deafness. Tinnitus is also a recognised side effect of some prescription drugs, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, some antibiotics and one or more statins; discuss this with your doctor if relevant.
Anxiety, depression, stress and post traumatic stress disorder are also implicated in all age groups. A Swedish study of 756 seven-year-olds, some with normal hearing and some with hearing loss, found that 41 per cent reported several episodes of tinnitus and 17 per cent reported recurrent problems. The authors suggest it may be correlated with stress.
Acupuncture, homeopathy and reflexology can help manage sufferers’ stress levels, and, according to the BTA , ‘improve their experience of tinnitus’.
The structure of your mouth and jaw may be a factor, also any neck problems. Chiropractor Dominic Cheetham (sloanesquarechiropractors.co.uk) says some patients respond quickly to manipulation. ‘The results should be evident in three or four sessions.’
Tinnitus may occur after middle-ear infections. Pharmacist Shabir Daya recommends Plantago Tincture (£9.15 for 50ml, from Victoria Health), an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial plant extract, which may soothe mucous membranes and anecdotally has helped some people.
Rein In Your Happy Wanderer
Mothers tell me that although you seldom see young children in reins (unlike when I grew up), they are extremely useful. So we asked our tester, Michelle, to try out a simple but clever gizmo, a small backpack customised with a long rein (rather like a dog lead). Her verdict was 100 per cent positive. She reports, ‘Reins have been a must ever since our happy wanderer of a daughter could walk. Now two and a half, her old reins seem too babyish so this backpack from PacaPod with a lead attached ticks all the boxes. It looks fun, so she loves wearing it, it’s great for carting her comforter to nursery and the rein/lead is long enough so Mummy and Daddy don’t have to stoop. Our best test was taking it to Munich for a long weekend – it was a godsend for keeping track of her at a busy airport and also while out sightseeing.’
Website Of The Week: orchid-cancer.org.uk
This week heralds Orchid’s Male Cancer Awareness Week. Every year more than 37,000 men will be diagnosed with testicular, prostate and penile cancer. Post-diagnosis support is crucial as the majority of men are left so anxious and depressed that they find it hard to socialise and work, and are deeply worried about their relationships. Orchid offers a confidential listening and support service staffed by specialist nurses, plus information and advice.
A Fruitful Brekky Bowl
I love muesli with yoghurt and fruit for a quick breakfast but tend to puff up with too much wheat. So I’m happy to find Kate’s Originals Classic Muesli (£4.79), which is based on oats, barley and rye, with 37 per centfruit and seeds. And it’s 100 per cent organic. My tester has also been trying Kate’s Originals Fruity Porridge (£4.69) which just takes a few minutes to cook in the microwave and pronounces it ‘quick, delicious and nourishing’. katesoriginals.me.