Tinnitus Week: British Tinnitus Association reveals majority of UK parents are unaware children can have tinnitus

Posted on February 5, 2018

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  • The British Tinnitus Association survey found just under a third of UK parents (32%) think children under the age of 10 can have tinnitus; and just 37% think it can affect children aged 10 to 16
  • The research, which coincides with Tinnitus Week (5-11 February 2018) and is part of the charity’s Kids Talk Tinnitus, also revealed many parents are unaware of the common signs of the hearing condition in children, such as anxiety or difficulty concentrating
  • To help tackle the problem, the charity has created guidance for both parents and teachers
  • Just under a third of UK parents (32%) are aware that children under the age of 10 can have tinnitus, according to the British Tinnitus Association (BTA).

Research commissioned by the BTA has revealed the worrying statistic, which the charity says reinforces the misconception that the hearing condition only affects older people.

Additionally, just 37 per cent of the 1,011 UK parents surveyed*, said they realise children aged 10 to 16 can also have tinnitus, leading the charity to issue a call for better awareness about how it can have an impact on children..

A recent study** estimates that as many as one child in every school class across the country could be living with tinnitus.

Released by the BTA today to mark Tinnitus Week, the research, 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.

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%).

David Stockdale, chief executive of the BTA, said:

“This research provides a stark reminder of how little awareness there is around tinnitus in children and young people, with a large proportion of parents unaware that the condition can affect people in their early and teenage years.

“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.”

To help tackle the problem, the BTA has 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 the BTA’s existing award-winning information booklets and workbooks for children in Key Stages 1, 2 and 3-4.

Added David: “We believe as many as one child in every average size classroom across the UK has tinnitus, and so, by releasing these resources, we hope parents and teachers will become more aware of the signs and consider tinnitus if they have any concerns about a child.”

Dr Veronica Kennedy, Consultant Audiovestibular Physician at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust and former chair of the BTA’s Professional Advisers’ Committee, said: “Tinnitus can occur at any age and I have seen it in children even as young as three years old. The condition can be a source of curiosity and worry and can impact on a child’s state of mind if not addressed appropriately. It is vital parents are aware of what to look out for and visit their GP if they have any concerns.

“For most children and teens with tinnitus, an explanation of the condition and reassurance is all that is needed but for others a referral to a specialist paediatric audiology service is required to help them cope with the tinnitus and related stress and feelings of anxiety. A small number of children also need psychological support. Schools also have an important role to play as there are things that can be done to really help a child manage their condition in a classroom environment.”

Tinnitus Week takes place from 5-11 February 2018 and is an international awareness initiative led by a group of organisations, including the British Tinnitus Association, American Tinnitus Association, Tinnitus Hub and the Tinnitus Research Initiative.

Case study: “People can’t believe George has tinnitus” says mum 

A year ago school was a real struggle for George Heath, then in Y4, the noises the Nottingham based boy could hear were causing him real problems. He had to concentrate hard on the lessons in a bid to drown the noises out and ended up suffering with bad headaches. George, now aged 10, was diagnosed with tinnitus and is now finding school much easier thanks to coping techniques. Here, as part of Tinnitus Week, which the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) is marking by focussing on children and young people with the condition, his mum Niki shares their story.

“Lots of people can’t believe it when I say that George has tinnitus as, like me, they thought it was something that only older people got, they didn’t realise that children can suffer from the condition too.

When George started to have problems at school he said he could hear noises and got lots of headaches. His teacher suggested that we went to the doctors and from there we were referred to the hospital. Our audiologist was brilliant, she asked George about feeling anxious and worried and explained what was happening in his head.

She drew lots of pictures to explain tinnitus to George and this really helped him to understand what was happening. She also gave George a strategy and, because she didn’t want him to be anxious about what was happening, she spent time going through it with us.

Now that we all know what it is causing George problems we’ve been able to work with him to help. We know that there is no cure for tinnitus but there are lots of techniques for helping people to manage their condition.

George went back to school and so far Y5 has been much better for him. We spoke to the school and gave them the leaflet that the doctor had given us to explain what was happening and they have provided George with a Learning Passport, this means that if his tinnitus sounds are loud and making him anxious or stressed he can come out of the classroom and has somewhere quiet where he can work alone. Simple changes like this have hugely reduced his anxiety.

Thankfully now that we know what it is we can talk about it together. At night we do lots of calm breathing which helps a lot.

We are just a year into George’s diagnosis but we have come on leaps and bounds thanks to the support we received from the hospital and the procedures that school have put in place. He is now a much happier 10 year old.”

For further information about Tinnitus Week, visit www.tinnitus.org.uk/about-tinnitus-week. For tinnitus support, please visit the British Tinnitus Association’s website: www.tinnitus.org.uk or call the BTA’sconfidentialfreephonehelpline on 0800 018 0527.

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