Tinnitus is the perception of sound in one or both ears when no external sound is present and is a relatively common condition. Although GPs often dismiss tinnitus symptoms, they can significantly impact daily life. Furthermore, studies show mental health issues like depression and anxiety are linked to tinnitus, making it a complex health condition.
According to research, 1 to 3% of people with long-term tinnitus, defined as experiencing symptoms for six months or more, have psychological disorders. The persistent ringing makes concentrating, sleeping, and engaging in daily activities difficult, leading to depression and anxiety.
Tinnitus treatment through the NHS is generally only provided for people with chronic tinnitus who have severe symptoms. And even if you get a referral, you will likely face long waiting times.
Lee Fletcher (RHAD) (BSHAA), Principal Audiologist and Director of Regain Hearing Clinics in London and Kent, has been at the forefront of innovative tinnitus diagnosis and treatment for over a decade. His pioneering approach combines comprehensive testing with tailored management strategies.
We spoke with Lee to learn more about his cutting-edge techniques that relieve tinnitus sufferers.
“Our assessment protocol includes an in-depth consultation and assessment using the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory, high-frequency audiometry, tinnitus matching and mapping, and measurement of tinnitus impact on quality of life,” Lee explained. “This enables us to fully understand each patient’s specific tinnitus profile.”
He continued, “Instead of a rigid protocol, we create a flexible, personalised treatment plan that targets the patient’s unique needs. Our tinnitus treatment combines multiple techniques like sound therapy, groundbreaking apps, hearing aids, and therapeutic methods. Each component targets specific tinnitus symptoms and needs. We’re constantly integrating the latest evidence-based techniques to help patients reclaim their lives.”
William Shatner and Hearing Aids for Tinnitus
In a 2020 Twitter post, acclaimed actor William Shatner shared his experience in response to a question about whether hearing aids helped his tinnitus.
While not outright confirming a tinnitus diagnosis, Shatner replied, “I didn’t get hearing aids to hear; they produced white noise to learn habituation. It never goes away. You learn to ignore it through habituation.”
Tinnitus habituation uses sound therapy to train the brain to tune out and be less bothered by tinnitus noises. Hearing aids, sound generators, and other devices can be programmed to provide soothing background sounds that make the tinnitus less noticeable. Over time, the brain learns to focus less on the tinnitus. While not a cure, habituation provides relief and improved quality of life for many with chronic tinnitus.
Shatner’s experience highlights the impact of tinnitus and one of the ways it can potentially be managed. His openness may empower others dealing with tinnitus to explore habituation approaches. More awareness about the condition and available treatment options is key.
Keanu Reeves on Learning to Live with Tinnitus
Keanu Reeves reveals he developed tinnitus after being exposed to loud sounds while filming action movies earlier in his career. “I didn’t protect my ears. It started with a ringing every now and then and then developed into a constant high-pitched sound.” He admits it was frustrating at first. “I couldn’t escape it. Every room I walked into, the ringing was there.”
Over time, he learned techniques to manage the condition, like using low-volume background sounds to mask the ringing. Keanu now wants to make others aware of the importance of wearing proper ear protection around loud noise.
Kevin Shields and Hearing Protection
As the leader of the influential indie rock band My Bloody Valentine, Kevin Shields has been known to perform at extreme noise levels that forced some concertgoers to exit venues. Yet the band also provides complimentary earplugs for fans, aware of the risks of loud music.
Shields himself suffers from tinnitus, candidly sharing, “I got tinnitus falling asleep listening to mixes of [My Bloody Valentine’s] Loveless album. It was only for about two hours, but when I woke up, I could hear a high-pitched sound but wondered where it was coming from.”
Shields and My Bloody Valentine embody the rebellious spirit of rock music that often glorifies playing unrelentingly loud. His openness about tinnitus onset demonstrates how one brief exposure can have lasting effects.
But by providing earplugs, Shields shows it’s possible to balance creative expression with hearing conservation — distributing free protection being an important act of promoting greater awareness about the potential harm to hearing from loud noise.
Understanding and Managing the Complexities of Tinnitus
Tinnitus extends beyond just hearing ringing, buzzing, hissing and clicking sounds. Strong ties between chronic tinnitus, depression, and anxiety, highlight the importance of comprehensive treatment.
There are various proven strategies for managing symptoms, such as sound therapy, stress reduction techniques, and tinnitus retraining therapy. Audiologists who specialise in tinnitus offer the latest and most innovative treatment solutions.
The key is being proactive. Partnering with an experienced audiologist allows you to develop an effective, personalised tinnitus management plan. Consistency and patience are vital in training your brain to filter out phantom sounds. Though challenging, most patients find they can regain their quality of life through committed tinnitus treatment and lifestyle adjustments tailored to their needs.