What is tinnitus?
“Tinnitus” is simply the sensation of hearing sounds in your ears or head without that sound being present.
The sounds heard vary from a hiss, whistle, ring, buzz or click, and can be a single sound or a number of different sounds. The pitch can be high or low and the duration can vary from a few seconds at a time to continuous noise.
There is a form of tinnitus called Objective Tinnitus which is much rarer than the Subjective Tinnitus that affects most people with tinnitus. Objective Tinnitus can actually be heard by others.
Fifteen percent of the general population report tinnitus. More than 70% of people with hearing have tinnitus. 80% of people with tinnitus have some hearing loss.
Important: 72% of people with tinnitus do not consider it a problem. The remaining 28% report they suffer from tinnitus. Hyperacusis is often an associated condition for those with more severe tinnitus.
Tinnitus has many different causes as it usually results from a problem in the hearing or auditory system:
- Damage to the inner ear through natural ageing and / or exposure to loud noise, particularly if it is prolonged exposure is the most common cause. If you have served in the armed services or who have worked in a noisy industry environment there is a high chance you will end up with tinnitus.
- It may develop following surgery, or following neck, or head injuries including whiplash.
- It can be a side effect from a drug or damage to the ears from scuba diving.
- Stress, or raised blood pressure is associated with onset of tinnitus.
- Dental or jaw related issues are also linked to tinnitus.
- Or something as simple as an excessive build-up of wax in the ear can be the cause of tinnitus.
For more information on bizarre causes of tinnitus read this blog.
We believe that part of the brain responsible for emotions (the limbic system) is the source of much 20 years of functional brain research for tinnitus. Understanding how the brain is involved with tinnitus is important for future treatment options.
We have no cure for tinnitus. However, it is possible to take control of your Tinnitus and improve the quality of your life. There are now multiple studies showing it’s possible to develop the ability to ignore, or adapt to your tinnitus. This alone can be the difference between tinnitus being intolerable to being a minor annoyance.
The earlier after onset you take action on the following recommendations, the greater the chance of great outcomes of treatments.
It is recommended that you take action on the following 6 steps.
- Consult an experienced Tinnitus Audiologist. If necessary they will refer you to your GP and your GP to an Ear Nose & Throat Specialist if there are any medical treatments possible. Note there are currently no medications recommended for tinnitus. Medication may be recommended for other medical conditions.
Be aware that not all Audiologists are experienced in the area of Tinnitus despite what their website says.
- Learn what you can about tinnitus. An audiologist specialising in Tinnitus will help you remove the fear associated with what is happening to you. Suggest looking at consumer based websites. Tinnitus Australia
- Warning! There is significant misleading information out there. There are many sites on the internet that offer crazy hype and false promises. If you have the knowledge and confidence to judge what types of treatment can help you, you reduce the risk of wasting time & money on products, or services that have dubious research or clinical credibility.
- There are some great treatment options out there. Discuss with our Audiologist Nolene Nielson at your appointment your particular situation and needs.
- Focus on your self care. Self care is care provided “for you, by you.” It’s about identifying your own needs and taking steps to meet them. It is taking the time to do some of the activities that nurture you. Self care is about taking proper care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others.
- Be willing to learn techniques that enable you to live your best life rather than being concerned about your tinnitus.
- Seek psychological help if you are feeling unable to cope with life or life events.
You may need one, a combination of two or more of these treatments according to your individual situation.
- Sound Enrichment or Sound Therapy works to make tinnitus less noticeable by reducing the contrast between tinnitus sounds and background sounds. This ‘distraction’ can be achieved by wearing sound generators, which fit behind, or in, the ear and produce soft ‘rushing’ sounds, or by listening to soothing sounds – from CDs or other sound-therapy products. It is not masking.
- Hearing Aids are often recommended when you have a significant hearing loss as hearing sounds of life again may make it difficult to hear your tinnitus.
- Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) is based on the neurophysiological model of tinnitus and involves directive counselling and sound therapy.
- Mindfulness, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Counselling. These therapies are associated with significant improvement in your tinnitus and are usually incorporated into a tinnitus treatment program.
- Attention training. The new frontier in treatment of tinnitus. Attention training has been found to reduce the impact of tinnitus in your life and help you gain back control.
Complementary therapies such as acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic, herbal medicine, homeopathy, hypnotherapy, osteopathy, craniosacral therapy, reflexology and Shiatsu. There is little conclusive evidence to prove or disprove the usefulness of any of these but it’s thought they work by helping you to relax – which, in turn, can help manage tinnitus. Treatments for tinnitus: 5 old wives tales
Anything that offers a cure should be viewed as a scam or waste of money.
How can Hearing Care Professionals Help?
Our extensive experience and research into tinnitus therapy ensures you will have an individualized program that will assist you in achieving tinnitus habituation and management. Any fears you may have about your tinnitus will be addressed by providing you with an understanding of tinnitus, an analysis of your emotional reaction to it and reassurance with regard to your ability to habituate to it. Our program for tinnitus starts with an initial consultation taking one and a half hours but may vary depending on the level of your reaction to your tinnitus and the on-going guidance and support you may require. Hearing Care Professionals will inform you at each step what your options are going forward.