Tinnitus

What is

Tinnitus?

We are surrounded by sounds that enrich our lives – laughter, music, waves at a beach, the rustling of leaves. But what happens if you start to hear annoying noises that does not seem to go away? Noises that are not from your environmental surrounds but from inside your head.

This phenomenon is called tinnitus. The word “tinnitus” means “tinkling or ringing like a bell”. It can be very upsetting and can cause stress and anxiety. Many people with tinnitus feel that it lowers their quality of life, keeping them up at night and making them tired and depressed. The constant noise can set off negative emotional and behavioural reaction that cause a downward spiral that causes sufferers to focus even more on their tinnitus.

Tinnitus is a common audiological and neurological ailment often described as a ringing, buzzing, whistling, roaring, clicking, hissing or swooshing sound or even a high squeal. Tinnitus sounds different to everyone. The sound can range in volume, pitch, timing and duration for every person affected. It can be a temporary condition (acute) with a distinct trigger and onset or a long term and ongoing one (chronic) that may have increased or become more noticeable with time.


What are the

common causes?

Just like tinnitus can sound different to everyone, there are different causes too. Almost everything that can go wrong with our ears can produce tinnitus as a symptom.

The most common causes include:

1

Age-related hearing loss

Age-related hearing loss.  This is most common is individuals over the age of 60 yrs.

2

Exposure to loud noise

Long term exposure is more likely to lead to permanent damage and tinnitus, while short term exposure is more likely to lead to temporary tinnitus only.

3

Earwax blockage

Earwax protects your ear canal by trapping dirt and slowing the growth of bacteria. When too much earwax accumulates it can cause hearing loss and irritation of the eardrum, which can lead to tinnitus.

4

Middle ear bone (ossicles) changes

Otosclerosis is a condition that usually runs in families where the middle ear bones harden, affecting hearing and resulting in tinnitus.


Less common causes of tinnitus include:

1

Meniere's disease

This is an inner ear disorder related to fluid pressure with tinnitus a common symptom

2

Temporomandibular Joint disorders

Problems lower jawbone can cause tinnitus, usually as a clicking noise.

3

Head injuries or neck injuries

Damage to brain or nerves from an injury can result in tinnitus (often present on one side only).

4

Acoustic neuroma

A benign tumour can develop on the cranial nerve and disrupt balance and hearing (hearing loss and tinnitus is usually present on one side only).

5

Blood vessel disorders

High blood pressure, malformed capillaries and head or neck tumours that press on blood vessels can all result in tinnitus.

6

Medication

Some antibiotics, diuretics, antidepressants or chemotherapy medications can trigger or worsen tinnitus.

Managing

Tinnitus

Interestingly, tinnitus is not a true disorder on its own, but rather a symptom. It is not usually a sign of anything serious, but it can be irritating and distracting. Similar to pain, the goal is to find relief from the symptom. When dealing with tinnitus, a positive attitude is very helpful. Tinnitus is one of many sounds you hear – the key is to learn to make it fit into your life and the sounds around you.

Treatment usually involves easing the underlying condition or masking the internal noise to make it less noticeable. Because of the bothersome nature of constant internal noise, tinnitus can trigger or worsen already present conditions of stress, fatigue, sleep or memory problems, depression or anxiety, irritability or concentration problems. For this reason, it is important to identify the causes and seek treatment where possible.

hearing-aid-audiologist-help

Although there is no single recognised cure for the majority of tinnitus, there are several treatment options available to minimise the impact and improve quality of life for those affected. It is important to identify the underlying cause of tinnitus before treatment is initiated to ensure the best chance of success. Simple measures such as earwax removal, treating vascular conditions through medication, or changing any medications that might be causing the problem can help reduce tinnitus.

Tinnitus masking through the use of a hearing aid or other device to provide masking noise can mask the internal sounds and make them less noticeable. Depending on your needs, your hearing care professional may suggest using a hearing aid – this is particularly useful where there is also underlying hearing loss. Tinnitus retraining is also another method involving the use of a specific programmable device that plays tonal music to mask specific frequencies – in conjunction with counselling, this helps the patient focus less on the tinnitus and thereby lessen its impact on their lives.

Managing

Tinnitus

hearing-aid-audiologist-help

Interestingly, tinnitus is not a true disorder on its own, but rather a symptom. It is not usually a sign of anything serious, but it can be irritating and distracting. Similar to pain, the goal is to find relief from the symptom. When dealing with tinnitus, a positive attitude is very helpful. Tinnitus is one of many sounds you hear – the key is to learn to make it fit into your life and the sounds around you.

Treatment usually involves easing the underlying condition or masking the internal noise to make it less noticeable. Because of the bothersome nature of constant internal noise, tinnitus can trigger or worsen already present conditions of stress, fatigue, sleep or memory problems, depression or anxiety, irritability or concentration problems. For this reason, it is important to identify the causes and seek treatment where possible.

Although there is no single recognised cure for the majority of tinnitus, there are several treatment options available to minimise the impact and improve quality of life for those affected. It is important to identify the underlying cause of tinnitus before treatment is initiated to ensure the best chance of success. Simple measures such as earwax removal, treating vascular conditions through medication, or changing any medications that might be causing the problem can help reduce tinnitus.

Tinnitus masking through the use of a hearing aid or other device to provide masking noise can mask the internal sounds and make them less noticeable. Depending on your needs, your hearing care professional may suggest using a hearing aid – this is particularly useful where there is also underlying hearing loss. Tinnitus retraining is also another method involving the use of a specific programmable device that plays tonal music to mask specific frequencies – in conjunction with counselling, this helps the patient focus less on the tinnitus and thereby lessen its impact on their lives.

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