Think of tinnitus and it’s likely you’ll associate the hearing condition with the older generation, but think again. Tinnitus affects young people, too, with one child in every classroom across the UK estimated to have it. Read this blog by David Stockdale, our Chief Executive, who tells us more.

This week is Tinnitus Week – an annual global awareness-raising initiative which runs from 5-11 February. The week provides us with a platform to speak up about tinnitus and how it impacts on people’s lives, whatever their age.

Here at the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) we are using the week to highlight the fact children and young people can – and do – live with tinnitus, raising awareness amongst parents and teachers of the symptoms of the condition, and unveiling much-needed guidance. 

Why? Because our research, revealed today, has shown worrying statistics around parent’s knowledge of the condition. Just under a third (32%) of UK parents are aware that children under the age of 10 can have tinnitus, and just 37% think it can affect children aged 10 to 16-years-old.

The study, which was conducted by Censuswide, also found that when asked what they thought could be signs of tinnitus in children - while more than half (57%) of the parents associated children reporting noise in the head and/or ears with the condition - many are less aware of the other common signs.

Spotting the signs

Just over 20 per cent (22%) said they would consider anxiety issues, such as feelings of fear or helplessness as a sign of tinnitus, 40 per cent would associate it with difficulty with attention or concentration at school, and only 28 per cent would link tinnitus with their child reporting feelings of fullness in their ears.

Other lesser known signs of tinnitus the surveyed parents were largely unaware of include emotional issues, such as feelings of anger or frustration (27%), avoiding noisy situations (29%) and, also, avoiding quiet situations (22%).

For us, these findings give cause for concern. While unsurprisingly, most parents would associate their child reporting sounds in their ears or head with tinnitus – the problem is that children are often unable to explain what it is they’re experiencing so unless they are directly asked the question by a parent, teacher or medical professional, it can often be overlooked.

They may be struggling alone and so may often display more subtle signs, such as appearing distracted or becoming anxious which can also have a real impact on their general quality of life including their behaviour and learning at school.

 

Amy’s story

Take 11-year-old Amy McLaughlin for example. Amy, who lives in Midlothian, Scotland, was diagnosed with tinnitus when she was just eight years old.

Her diagnosis came when she started complaining of a buzzing sound in her ear – but, in her mum’s words – “looking back we think she could have had it for a lot longer, as she could get very frustrated, emotional and upset about everyday things.”

Thanks to Amy’s determination and strength, Amy is now living life to the full, developing her own management techniques to help her cope with her tinnitus at both home and at school. But the importance of her parents asking her specifically about her hearing made a huge difference in getting her the professional help she needs to manage the condition.

We want more parents and teachers to feel empowered to not only recognise the signs and symptoms of tinnitus, but to ask children who they feel could have the condition if they are hearing noises in their ears.

 

A helping hand

To coincide with Tinnitus Week, we’ve created two sets of guidance: Tinnitus: A Guide for Parents, which includes the signs and symptoms to look out for, as well as advice on the best places to get help and support if parents suspect their child has tinnitus; and Tinnitus: A Guide for Teachers – providing practical steps for use in the classroom.

The new resources add to our existing award-winning information booklets and workbooks for children in Key Stages 1, 2 and 3-4.

By working together to help improve the awareness of tinnitus and the impact it can have on people of all ages, we can make a real difference to those living with the condition, from childhood through to old age.

Tinnitus Week runs from 5-11 February 2018 aiming to get the nation talking about tinnitus and highlight the stories of those living with it. This year’s focus is children and young people. For more information please visit the British Tinnitus Association’s website.

Please also follow the hashtag #TinnitusWeek on social media.

 

To learn more about the BTA’s Tinnitus Week campaign, visit www.tinnitus.org.uk/about-tinnitus-week

 

To download the BTA’s resources for teachers and parents, visit www.tinnitus.org.uk/Pages/Category/tinnitus-in-children