Suffering from a ringing, buzzing or whooshing in the ears? It could well be Tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a condition where noises such as ‘ringing in the ears or head’ occur when no other external physical noise is present.
The noises can sound like buzzing, ringing, whistling, hissing, pulsing, roaring or cicada-like sounds. The word ‘tinnitus’ is of Latin origin and means ‘tinkling or ringing like a bell’. In many cases, tinnitus is associated with some degree of hearing loss, but this may not always be so.
Is Tinnitus Common?
Tinnitus is extremely common with approximately 17% - 20% of Australians suffering with some degree of tinnitus, with a very small percentage of people severely affected. Most people suffer from tinnitus some time in their lives. Usually tinnitus only lasts for a short period e.g. after going to a concert, or listening in a quiet room.
Sometimes tinnitus can be persistent. It is common for tinnitus to fluctuate with stress and tiredness, with no harmful significance. Around 1% of people suffer with severe, troublesome tinnitus that is recognised as a major affliction.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not a disease in itself, it is a symptom.
It’s presence is an indication of some damage or malfunction of the hearing mechanism. There are many causes that can produce tinnitus, the more common causes are:
• Hearing loss – tinnitus does not cause hearing loss, but many people with hearing loss suffer with tinnitus. However, many normal hearing people also experience tinnitus.
• Noise trauma – damage to the inner ear from exposure to very loud sounds such as shooting, chain saws, aircraft engines, or excessively amplified music (the most common cause of tinnitus).
• Physical injury – a blow to the head, or changes in barometric pressure during air travel or diving.
• Ear diseases or infection – Otosclerosis (immobilisation of the small bones in the middle ear) and Meniere’s Disease (a build-up of fluid in the inner ear) can both cause tinnitus.
• Other causes can be allergies, tumours, diabetes, diet, thyroid problems, circulatory changes and stress!
Tinnitus Is Real!
Although psychological or emotional problems may be associated with tinnitus, it is a real problem—not imagined. Almost all patients indicate that stress or tension makes their tinnitus worse. Family and friends have trouble understanding because they cannot see or hear it themselves.
What Can I Do?
It is important that you consult an Ear Nose and Throat specialist to investigate the cause. An audiologist/audiometrist can assess your hearing and provide more information on tinnitus. There are a number of things you can do to lessen the severity of the tinnitus including:
• Loud noise – many people will find their tinnitus is aggravated by noise and should avoid noisy situations or wear ear protection if practicable.
• Stress and fatigue – these should be avoided as much as possible and always try to get adequate sleep and relaxation.
• Medication – tinnitus can be a side effect of some medication. Anti-inflammatory drugs, quinine, and aspirin among many others. If you are on any medication, you should check with your doctor in case an alternative treatment is indicated.
• Lowering salt intake – this plus a balanced diet is beneficial.
• Daily exercise – this will improve circulation and may help.
• Blood pressure – your blood pressure should be checked and measures taken to lower it if necessary.
• Nicotine – you are strongly advised not to smoke.
• Caffeine – coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolate all contain caffeine. Try eliminating these from your diet for a one-month trial period to determine whether caffeine is having an adverse effect on you.
• Alcohol and other drugs – most people with tinnitus find that it is aggravated following any form of intoxication.
What Else Can Help Me?
Hearing Aids - When a hearing loss and tinnitus are present together, for some patients hearing aids alone are very beneficial, providing relief from tinnitus.
Hearing aids amplify environmental sounds that can make tinnitus less noticeable. Hearing aids also enable the wearer to reduce the stress and tiredness associated with the strain of trying to hear when a hearing loss is present. This in turn will aid in reducing tinnitus. Hearing aids available today are technological advanced and can be fit to suit nearly all hearing loss.
Widex Zen Therapy – This is a program that is built into Widex hearing aids combining sound stimulation, counselling, stress reduction and amplification to help dull the annoying hum of tinnitus. It can help you reduce stress, overcome sleep difficulties, and reduce overcompensation by the brain because of hearing deficits.
At bloom, we consider all the factors involved in your tinnitus and adjust your treatment accordingly. If you think you or a loved one may have tinnitus, click here to speak to your closest bloom hearing specialist who can talk you through ways to manage your symptoms.