Byline: HELEN RAE
PENSIONER Alan Robson knows all about the impact of living with tinnitus.
The 70-year-old, of Blyth, Northumberland, was diagnosed with the condition almost three years ago after he had his ears syringed to remove ear wax.
When the retired lorry driver first noticed the "buzzing" noise, he thought it was coming from the fridge, but soon realised it was in his own head.
He said: "At first, the noise was really distracting - like a hissing and high-pitched screaming - and the frequency of it changed when I moved my jaw up and down.
"I thought I was going to go deaf but, over time, I've got used to it.
"When I go to bed, there is a hissing sound in my ears, and when I wake up, it's still there - I can't get away from it.
"Some people who have the condition who get really depressed about it, just wishing it would go away, but I try to remain as positive as I can.
"At times, the noise gets so loud I think people must be able to hear it, but they can't."
The grandfather added: "If you learn to live with the condition and work at ignoring it, then it makes life a lot easier."
Mr Robson visits Newcastle Freeman's Tinnitus Clinic every six months and uses a tinnitus masker, which provides a gentle rushing sound that he concentrates on to ignore the other sounds in his head.
He also goes along to a local support group in Shiremoor, North Tyneside, where other people affected by the condition can go along and share their experiences.
He added: "Talking to other people helps - you soon realise there are other people much worse off than you."
Tinnitus is one of the most common hearing complaints, affecting almost five million in the UK - 10% of adults.
Typically described as a persistent ringing, buzzing or whistling in the ears, most people will experience tinnitus at some point, and it's quite common to have it for a short while after exposure to loud noise.
However, for some, the condition can become a major disturbance, leading to difficulty sleeping, poor concentration and, in some cases, depression.
Tinnitus is nearly always physically harmless and, although there is no cure, there are many steps that can be taken to minimise its disruption.
Ian Johnson, clinical director for Ear Nose and Throat Services and a leading consultant ENT surgeon at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, said: "Tinnitus can have a detrimental effect on people's lives, so it's important to seek professional help.
"Your GP can refer you to be seen by an ENT surgeon who specialises in ear disorders and you will have a series of tests to make sure there is no underlying cause for the tinnitus. …