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

 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 (Monday 5 February) 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.

 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.