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Understanding tinnitus and hearing loss

Posted: 09/02/2018

To coincide with Tinnitus Awareness Week, partner Tristan Hallam examines the causes and impact of this common condition which is thought to affect approximately 1 in 10 of the population.

The issue with noise induced hearing loss is that once exposure to the noise has taken place, and assuming that the exposure resulted in hearing loss, damage to the hearing is likely to be permanent. It is not the type of injury or condition which will result in significant recovery over time.

The impact on the hearing hairs and cells in the inner ear will in most cases be irreversible. At the very best, one could hope for some slight improvement in the short term if the exposure has resulted in what is known as acoustic shock which the vast majority of us have experienced after being in a noisy environment such as a pop concert.

Damage will nevertheless have occurred. Sometimes it is indiscernible or only noticeable in the higher frequency where, depending upon the extent of the damage, it can still be barely discernible. On occasion tinnitus also arises and over time it is possible to assess whether the tinnitus is then permanent.

Tinnitus varies in intensity. It is generally thought of as being either mild, moderate or severe, and where severe tinnitus has occurred, this can be hugely debilitating. While tinnitus can be frustrating even at a mild level, much can be done to try to reduce its impact upon daily life and in particular, to ensure that sleep is not unduly disturbed on a regular basis.

There are now a number of clinics across the country which provide advice. In addition, a wealth of information is available on the web together with various items that can be purchased to assist in getting to sleep.

In the majority of cases the development of tinnitus occurs due to high levels of noise exposure and it is generally the result of an employment related matter. By way of example, the personal injury team at Penningtons Manches has dealt with a number of claims for police officers who have suffered hearing loss and tinnitus as a result of unprotected exposure to firearms noise and explosive devices. In these cases the level of noise exposure, albeit only over a brief period, significantly exceeded safe exposure levels. 

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