Is Tinnitus a Disability?

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Is Tinnitus a Disability?

Tinnitus – the common hearing condition where you experience ringing or buzzing noises – can be extremely serious and potentially limit your opportunities to work, operate a vehicle or communicate. Depending on the extent and cause of your tinnitus, it may well be considered a disability under the Equality Act.

In short, UK legislation categorises any condition or symptom, whether physical or mental, as a disability if it causes a substantial and long-term impairment that affects your ability to conduct your usual daily activities. Tinnitus that meets this threshold normally means you have rights and protections under the Equality Act and may be eligible to claim financial support.

Some Regain Hearing clients can also link tinnitus to their profession, such as working within the military, demolition, roadwork or in a stage or concert setting, which can potentially mean you can no longer continue working in a high-noise environment or are entitled to compensation.

Key Takeaways

  • Criteria for Disability Recognition: Tinnitus can be considered a disability under the UK’s Equality Act if it substantially and persistently impairs daily activities. This includes severe cases where tinnitus affects the ability to work, drive, or communicate.
  • Eligibility for Support: Individuals with severe tinnitus that meet the disability criteria might be entitled to financial support and protections under the Equality Act. This is particularly relevant for those whose tinnitus is linked to their professional environment, such as military or construction workers.
  • Treatment and Management: Although there is no cure for tinnitus, effective treatments like personalised sound therapy can significantly alleviate symptoms. These treatments focus on minimising tinnitus perception to improve quality of life.
  • Assessment and Diagnosis: A comprehensive ear health evaluation is crucial to determine the exact nature and impact of tinnitus. This helps in creating tailored treatment plans and in some cases, can identify underlying causes that can be addressed to reduce symptoms.

Is tinnitus a disability

Understanding the Categorisation of Tinnitus as a Disability

As we’ve explained, tinnitus can sometimes be treated as a disability, where your hearing loss or interrupted hearing is serious enough that it stops you from doing the things you would normally do. It’s important never to underestimate how much tinnitus can affect an individual, with frequent symptoms and side effects including:

  • Lack of sleep or repeatedly disturbed sleep.
  • Mental health disorders such as stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Reduced ability to concentrate, communicate or relax.

While mild cases of tinnitus may not have these side effects, if untreated, tinnitus can become worse over time, especially if an underlying cause has been left unaddressed.

People suffering from tinnitus may initially be able to ignore the ringing or buzzing noise, but this may become impossible if the noise is persistent and ever-present, inhibits their ability to sleep, or intensifies or spreads to both ears.

The good news is that innovative, sector-leading therapies such as our unique, personalised tinnitus sound therapy can make a substantial difference and even lessen the symptoms of tinnitus in as little as one session.

By focusing on reducing and eliminating tinnitus noises to an unnoticeable level, we tackle the root cause rather than using white noise therapies or similar treatments that aim to trick your brain into focusing less on the buzzing or ringing.

Factors That Determine Whether Tinnitus is Regarded as a Disability

There isn’t a blanket ‘rule’ that determines when a confirmed tinnitus diagnosis is treated as a disability because the condition can affect individuals in very different ways. The circumstances behind your tinnitus and the extent to which it affects your life will define whether your condition is a disability or not.

For example:

  • If you have hearing loss along with tinnitus and need hearing aids or other assistance to complete normal daily tasks, it is more likely to be categorised as a disability.
  • Tinnitus that prevents you from doing things like driving, talking on the phone or sleeping can present as a disability if these issues are ongoing.
  • The definition of a disability is something that has a ‘substantial’ effect and is ‘long-term’, so temporary tinnitus, however severe, does not usually meet the threshold of a disability.
  • Audiologists and clinicians also need to be subjective when determining whether a condition is substantial. This means there isn’t a hard and fast way to say for sure whether your tinnitus would be treated as a disability.

Part of the puzzle is that, although there isn’t a cure for tinnitus, it can be treated extremely effectively using the therapies we’ve mentioned above.

That said if tinnitus is caused by an underlying issue, such as damage or injury to your ear, an infection, or a medication you have been prescribed for another condition, that contributing issue may need to be resolved or treated before tinnitus therapies can be successful.


Claiming Disability Support Due to Tinnitus

If your tinnitus is severe and meets the criteria to be considered a disability, you could possibly be entitled to claim income support, particularly if you are unable to work or your tinnitus means you cannot continue in your sector or profession due to the presence of prolonged or very loud noises.

Our earlier guide to the Personal Independence Payment and hearing loss provides further information about the criteria for submitting a claim, the number of benefits you may qualify for, and the types of hearing disruption or hearing loss that are most likely to qualify.

Some people with very extreme tinnitus who have experienced mental health side effects may also be entitled to claim disability support if they have been prescribed antidepressants or have been diagnosed with a long-term condition that will affect their ability to earn an income or function as they normally would.

The Importance of Full Hearing and Ear Health Evaluations to Tackle Tinnitus

We always recommend a comprehensive testing process before either applying for disabled status due to the impacts of your tinnitus, accepting that you will not be able to cure the condition, or making assumptions about what the causes may be.

In the vast majority of cases, a thorough ear examination will determine causes that are responsible for your tinnitus or that exacerbate the issue. It may also help to rule out any underlying conditions that could potentially be involved.

Examples include simple problems such as ear wax blockages or ear infections, both of which are easily remedied with a quick, pain-free microsuction treatment or course of antibiotics. These could have a speedy impact on reducing your tinnitus.

It’s also well worth taking the time to have your hearing checked, as we use a bespoke tinnitus grading process, which helps us map out the precise tone, volume, and pitch of the buzzing or ringing noises you can hear.

Working to this level of specificity enables our talented audiologists to create tailored tinnitus treatment plans, which can rapidly reduce the prominence of tinnitus sounds in one or both ears and lead to complete relief from the symptoms.

There is no need to suffer in silence, resign yourself to living with tinnitus for the rest of your life, or assume that treatments simply won’t work because other therapies have, as yet, been unsuccessful.

To learn more about our targeted, sector-leading tinnitus testing and therapies or to book a full hearing assessment, please get in touch or complete our booking form at your convenience – we’ll work together to get to the bottom of your tinnitus once and for all.