“So, what are you doing for work these days?”my dentist casually asked me, as he looked over my teeth.
“I work with people who suffer from tinnitus and help them find relief. Are you familiar with tinnitus at all?”
He seemed confused, “I’ve heard the word before, but I’m not sure.”
“It’s the medical term for ringing in the ears,” I responded. “Have you ever heard ringing in your ears after a loud concert? It’s that, except it’s all the time, and for a lot of people, it can be like torture.”
My dentist thought about it for a moment and responded, “Wow. I had no idea.”
The sad part is, I'm not surprised at all, because I run into this kind of thing all the time.
10-15% of the population experience tinnitus, and yet, when I bring it up, I’m constantly met with blank stares and confusion.
Tinnitus suffers from a massive PR problem, lacking the awareness, and cultural “sex appeal” of the more “mainstream” health conditions at the forefront of the public consciousness.
But for the hundreds of millions of sufferers around the world, it’s a big problem.
See no evil, speak no evil:
There is a lot to unpack here, but let’s start with the obvious: tinnitus is an invisible illness. And like every other invisible, chronic condition, it’s difficult for people to wrap their minds around something they can’t see.
When you don’t look sick, or appear to have anything noticeably wrong with you, everyone just assumes you’re fine.
But you’re not fine. At its worst, tinnitus can completely destroy your quality of life.
Imagine having to hear a loud, stress-inducing noise 24-7. You know that feeling you get when you hear nails on a chalkboard? It’s like that, times a thousand.
Tinnitus can impact every aspect of your day. Sleep becomes difficult and restless. Panic and anxiety become constant as stress levels rise to unmanageable levels.
Sound is used as a torture tactic for this very reason.
And far too many people are told that there is nothing they can do, that they just have to live with it, and that’s not helpful advice. Some people end up taking their lives.
It’s a dark picture, I know. But it’s the unfortunate outcome of a society with no awareness.
The truth, however, is that there is hope for tinnitus sufferers.
Fighting against a lack of understanding:
Raising awareness is the first step in a long process that would ultimately improve quality of life for the estimated 600+ million people suffering from tinnitus around the world.
And while there are systemic issues to address in this fight, raising awareness starts with our friends and families.
If the people closest to us don’t understand what we’re going through, why should we expect anything more from the rest of society?
We shouldn’t, and yet this is something that we can all improve. We can educate our loved ones. We can spread understanding and raise awareness at the grass roots level.
It may seem like a drop in the ocean, but it makes a difference.
Because awareness brings more than simple understanding and compassion. It leads to new ideas, research, and funding in the search for a cure.
Share this post with your friends and family!
Whether you have tinnitus yourself, or you know someone who does, you can be a part of the solution.
And talking about tinnitus is just the first step. There are organizations all over the world that need your help.
Donations are important, but so is volunteering - you can donate your time and experience! I encourage you to support any of the following organizations:
- The American Tinnitus Association: The ATA is a US based nonprofit whose mission is to improve the lives of people with tinnitus and hyperacusis by providing hope of a quieter future through education, advocacy, and research toward a cure.
- The Vestibular Disorders Association: The Vestibular Disorders Association is a nonprofit organization that goes above and beyond for the tinnitus community on a regular basis. For more than three decades, VEDA has advocated on behalf of patients, while providing a source of scientifically credible information on tinnitus and vestibular disorders.
- Hearing Health Foundation: Hearing Health Foundation is a wonderful U.S. based nonprofit organization with a mission to prevent and cure hearing loss and tinnitus through groundbreaking research. As the largest non-profit funder of hearing and balance research in the U.S., they have awarded millions of dollars to promising research initiatives, in areas such as hearing loss, tinnitus and hyperacusis.
- The British Tinnitus Association: The British Tinnitus Association is a UK based nonprofit organization that strives to be the primary source of support and information for people with tinnitus in the UK. Their vision is “a world where no one suffers from tinnitus.” They believe it to be achievable now, to an extent that there are management tools and methods available to enable some not to 'suffer', but also want to find better ways to manage tinnitus, as well as find a cure.
- Canadian Tinnitus Foundation: The Canadian Tinnitus Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to expanding awareness of tinnitus in Canada and generating funding for research to find a cure. Their mission is to provide a loud voice to those who suffer silently at the hands of this debilitating condition.
- The Tinnitus Research Initiative: The Tinnitus Research Initiative is a non-profit foundation dedicated to improving the quality of life for patients who suffer from tinnitus and tinnitus-related disorders. They believe that by bringing together researchers from a wide range of different disciplines, we will better understand tinnitus, leading to more effective treatments.
- The German Tinnitus Foundation: The German Tinnitus Foundation was formed with the idea that tinnitus and hearing disorders need the best possible treatments, and that every individual can do a great deal to protect himself or herself. The foundation has set itself the following tasks: to further research and scientific communication, prevention and diagnostics, and to raise public awareness for the importance of treating one's hearing with care.
- Additional Organizations and Resources
I hope you all will join me in the fight.
Because together we can make a difference. Together our voices will be heard.