FOR many, a ringing in the ear brought on after being in a noisy place can be a nuisance — but for up to 6.3 million people in the UK it is a constant menace.
Tinnitus, dubbed the unseen condition, affects about 10 per cent of the population and can range from a low buzzing noise to the sound of a jet engine.
It is associated with hearing loss, exposure to loud noise, ear infections, and stress and anxiety — but there is no specific trigger.
Some people can live with it but others struggle to sleep with the sheer volume of the noise in their head or ears.
There is no cure for the condition but there are a number of techniques that can be adopted so sufferers can prevent being plagued by the noise.
In Bolton, sufferers can get help from a tinnitus support group hosted by Personal Hearing Solutions in Chorley Old Road, which is marking Tinnitus Awareness Week with events including awareness days in Victoria Square on January 21 and February 4, and in B&Q car park on January 22 and February 5.
Three members of the group have agreed to share their stories with The Bolton News to help others learning to cope with the condition.
The British Tinnitus Association works to support anyone with the condition and during Tinnitus Awareness Week, from February 3 to 9, the association will be raising awareness by encouraging people to talk about tinnitus and highlight the help that is available.
A spokesman said: “Tinnitus Awareness Week aims to bring the condition of noises heard in the head or ears to the attention of thousands across the UK.
“Throughout the week there will be events taking place and displays set up so that people can find out more about what help is available.” For more details visit tinnitus.org.uk/TAW2014 For details about Bolton Tinnitus Support Group, call Christine Flanagan on 01204 227988.
Peter Sharples, aged 66, from Harwood, said: “Tinnitus affects everyone differently.
I get the noise of a jet engine in the right ear and the sound of a washing machine in the left.
When I wake up at night it affects me the most because it’s so quiet. At the group there is a member who has had it since the age of two.
“It takes it out of you. It’s exasperating and debilitating. The constant noise plagues you. The only time that tinnitus doesn’t affect you is when you’re asleep.
There is no cure, but there are things you can do to make it easier.
Having a constant noise on in the background all the time helps, such as calming music, the radio or the TV.
“I try to keep as busy as I can each day, such as by bowling, gardening or walking, but most of the time I have to try to ignore it. Imagine having a really bad itch but you couldn’t scratch it.”
Renee Chifnall, aged 69, from Heaton, said: “It all started about eight years ago when I was ill with meningococcal meningitis and developed septicaemia.
I thought I had a stomach bug but this rash appeared and my hands and feet started to turn black.
“It was caught just in time. I was in intensive care for four days at Royal Bolton but thanks to my care and my husband’s support I recovered.
“The drugs I was taking started to affect my ears and I had a constant buzzing all the time. I can see why some people go mad with it.
“The doctor said he could do nothing so I got a hearing aid from Personal Hearing Solutions, which made a difference, as did relaxation.
“When you’re all wound up or excited it makes the tinnitus worse, so I find if I have a hot drink and relax before bed I get to sleep.”
Phil Warren, aged 69, from Burnden, said: “I haven’t had tinnitus for that long. I had a heart attack last year, which I have pretty much recovered from, but this somehow brought on tinnitus in both ears.
“I have pulsating in one and a constant hissing in the other. The tablets I take for my heart seem to make it worse. I’ve got hearing aids despite hearing quite well — it helps to masks the noise a bit.
“I try meditating to keep it under control and I have had some success with that, but there is no cure or treatment for tinnitus.
"It can drive people to depression because it’s there all the time.
“At first I struggled sleeping but after meditation and making sure I am tired enough to fall asleep it helped. Once you’re asleep it’s fine. I’m usually best in the morning as the noise isn’t as bad.”