Hoping for the Sound of Silence

A pensioner has said he is glad to have gone completely deaf because it has got rid of the irritating hearing condition tinnitus. John Speakman, 79, of Northfield Road, Blackburn lost all his hearing after suffering from tinnitus since his 20s.

But this had actually made his life better, said his wife, Eileen, 73, as it cut out the persistent ringing associated with tinnitus.

She said: "He said he can cope with the deafness but the tinnitus takes your concentration away.

"He said when he tried to lip read he found it difficult because of the noise.

"Also, he found it difficult to concentrate reading the subtitles on the television because of the noise caused by tinnitus."

The condition is thought to affect as many as one in ten people in some form and is the focus of the first ever International Tinnitus Awareness Week, which runs until Sunday.

Blackburn MP and tinnitus sufferer Jack Straw is backing the campaign.

He said the week was essential as it called for more research into finding a treatment for the condition.

The former Foreign Secretary developed tinnitus 25 years ago through an ear infection.

He now hears a loud hissing sound in that ear and learnt to lip read in case he went completely deaf.

He said: "I was lucky because I have had interesting and fulfilling jobs but for some people it's really dreadful.

"I have dealt with mine by just putting up with it and there is a great need for more research. Some people are driven almost mad by it."

Mr Straw, who developed the condition two years after winning his seat for the first time, added: "Nobody chooses to live with the sound of whistles and escaping steam for the last 25 years.

"Tinnitus is often insultingly called subjective tinnitus which implies that you must be making it up. But I don't know of a sufferer who has made it up."

The awareness week, which runs until Sunday, has been organised by charity Action For Tinnitus Research.

It says more than five million people have some form of the condition, with 500,000 suffering its most serious effects.

Tinnitus can strike down anyone although it is often associated with people who are exposed to prolonged noise.

One of the most high profile sufferers is Pete Townsend, guitarist from The Who, once famously dubbed the loudest rock band on the planet.

A spokesman for Action For Tinnitus Research said: "The thrust of the awareness week is to encourage sufferers to take some control of their seemingly helpless situation and start to feel that they can actively play a part in helping find a treatment for tinnitus."



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