Medical Humanities 45 (4):408-415 (2019)

Tinnitus has long been interrogated as a medical conundrum, with little discourse between medicine and other disciplines. It involves the perception of sound in the ears or head without any external sound source, most likely a natural consequence of some form of hearing loss. For many people, tinnitus is bothersome and associated with various problems such as insomnia, difficulty concentrating and impaired listening ability. Nevertheless, with little attention from humanities or the social sciences, our understanding of the wider perspectives and psychosocial context of adults with tinnitus is limited, especially among UK military veterans. The aim of this study was to explore the impact of tinnitus on aged UK veterans, and to consider the support they receive and require to live well with tinnitus. In all, 120 aged UK veterans took part in this study. Data revealed similarities and differences between UK veteran and other study populations. For example, tinnitus symptom severity was higher in aged veterans than a general research population, particularly so on measures of intrusiveness and the effect of tinnitus on listening ability. Veterans had mixed views on social support. Many did not want to talk about tinnitus with others and/or did not want to burden their family, preferring to deal with their tinnitus ‘backstage’. Others appreciated empathy or sympathy; many implied a desire that their family and/or friends could better understand their experience of living with tinnitus and the problems it caused them. These complexities support a need for cross-disciplinary work to understand and respond to tinnitus-related problems in veterans.
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DOI 10.1136/medhum-2019-011671
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