Spalding area MP John Hayes is working to ensure greater support for tinnitis supporters
On the day I experienced a serious head injury in my early 20s, many things in my life changed. Among my new challenges was the arrival of deafness and emergence of permanent tinnitus - a ringing or buzzing in the ears. Luckily, I have not been held back by my hearing loss or tinnitus. Millions are not so fortunate.
The latest data shows I’m far from alone, with 8.5 million people in the UK suffering from the affliction. Whilst for some, symptoms of tinnitus are easily manageable or infrequent, for others their relentless, invasive intensity can be life changing. Indeed, numerous studies have illustrated the correlation between tinnitus, depression, anxiety and reduced wellbeing.
The particular nature of the condition means those tasked with formulating an effective response must overcome many hurdles. As there can be no definitive measurement of impact, any improvements or deteriorations among patients are difficult to monitor, resulting in a limited understanding of what treatments work and which don’t. What is more, despite the absence of a cure, research into tinnitus lacks stable, established funding streams, making it difficult to retain academics tasked with addressing the considerable gaps in scientific knowledge.
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As we rightly bolster our precious National Health Service, it is crucial to examine how provision for those who remain dissatisfied by the care they receive might be improved, including for the eight out of 10 patients who report that they are unhappy with their tinnitus treatment. Present spending on the condition, which now amounts to £750m per year, could be better directed through investment in initial research.
Being effective in Parliament means using experience, with consequent personal understanding, to fight for others. In light of which, I was delighted to sponsor a pioneering event in the House of Commons on behalf of the British Tinnitus Association, bringing together leading academics, politicians, patient support groups, clinicians and people with tinnitus to discuss what’s necessary to make improvements. Though experiences varied, the conclusion was uniform - only through a tailored, long-term commitment to funding can we entice talented academics to dedicate their careers to the study of tinnitus.
Inspired by the event, attending a debate on Health and Social Care on the same day, I explained to the Secretary of State for Health how: ‘Tinnitus affects numerous constituents of his and mine and people across this country, and it is urgent that we do more research and put more funding into the subject. Will the Secretary of State give good news to hundreds of thousands of our constituents?
The Secretary of State’s helpful response provides hope to all those determined to make progress. Reiterating his plans to increase research and pledging to work with me to ensure effort is directed to where it is needed. So, I plan to work closely with the British Tinnitus Association, stakeholders and politicians to ensure we grasp this important opportunity to make a meaningful difference to those who suffer daily with tinnitus. After all, they deserve quiet respite from constant noise.