What is Tinnitus?
Free yourself from the suffering of tinnitus
Have you ever experienced ringing, buzzing or hissing in your ears? If so, you are not alone. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that more than 25 million Americans experience this condition – known as tinnitus. The team at Hidden Hearing can identify and provide you with some relief.
Tinnitus is a hissing, buzzing, whistling, roaring or ringing in the ears that only you can hear. For some people, tinnitus impacts daily life with increased anxiety, anger and disturbed sleep.
Tinnitus is not a disease or hearing loss, but a symptom caused by an underlying condition, such as hearing loss or ear injury. About 80% of people with tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss without being aware of it, and many of them can benefit from hearing aids.
Symptoms may vary from one person to another, so personalised treatment offers the most effective relief. Our hearing care professionals have experience with different techniques, sound therapies and hearing aids, and can offer choices to help to relieve this debilitating condition.
Tinnitus has been around for a while
An individual may hear musical tones, ringing, buzzing, rushing, pulsing or other sounds when nothing is producing sound. It’s a phantom noise that can be extremely annoying and even debilitating. It was described in an Egyptian text in 150 B.C. but may have been plaguing Egyptians as early as the Seventeenth Dynasty (1650-1534 B.C.). The modern word, tinnitus, comes from the Latin tinnere, which means to ring.
What are the causes of Tinnitus
Tinnitus has many origins. Excessive noise, which damages the tiny hair cells in the inner ear, is the most likely culprit. If you work in a noisy environment, without ear protection, you are at risk of developing tinnitus and hearing loss. The louder the noise and the longer you are exposed to it, the greater the risk of damaging your hearing.
Even using headphones for anything from communicating to listening to music may cause tinnitus when you listen at high volume. In-ear headphones are more likely to contribute to tinnitus and hearing loss than other types of headphones.
Other common reasons that hair cells can become damaged are the natural process of ageing, sudden impact noises, or middle-ear infections. In addition, stress, negative reactions to medicines, neck or head injuries and other untreated medical conditions may all contribute to tinnitus.
Stress can more than double the instance of tinnitus
Tinnitus is more prevalent in persons who are under stress or burnt out than in other people. This is shown by a study from The Karolinska Institute in Sweden.
In the study, test persons were exposed to stressful situations, for example answering questions while at the same time being interrupted. After the test, blood tests were taken as were new hearing tests. The blood tests tested for levels of cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone which is activated in stressful situations and animal tests have shown that cortisol effects hearing.
“We found that tinnitus is 2.5 times more prevalent in people who are under long-term stress,” says Professor Barbara Canlon, who was one of the people leading the research
Tinnitus trouble? Experience successful outcomes
According to the Hearing Health Foundation, about 90% of individuals who experience tinnitus also have hearing loss. For some, the brain compensates for hearing loss by turning up an “inner volume control” to amplify otherwise unnoticeable sounds. So, symptoms begin, often with a cycle of emotional distress.
In addition, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reports that the condition increases steadily with age. It peaks between ages 60 to 69 years. However, symptoms vary widely. Unfortunately, there is no cure. Medicine cannot help. That is why our team focuses on supporting the brain as it makes sense of sound.
Therefore, treatment options may include:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy
- Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)
- Progressive tinnitus management therapy (PTM)
- Sound generators
- Sound stimulation
How does tinnitus affect your life?
Tinnitus makes it so an individual sometimes seems to hear "phantom" sounds. These perceptions are generated somewhere in the auditory pathways. Since they are not real, people sense them differently. Some experience ringing, buzzing, roaring, hissing or rushing.
Almost 20% of adults are affected by the condition. It can interfere with your ability to hear, concentrate or sleep. If untreated, it may lead to sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, anger and other psychological effects.
Is tinnitus permanent?
Since it is not an illness, treatment aims to minimise the negative effects. For many, amplification effectively manages symptoms. Approximately 80% of tinnitus sufferers report relief by using hearing aids. Most of all, sound therapy helps. Sometimes built into hearing aid devices or via an app, they adjust sounds according to individual preference. As a result, people experience a reduction in the starkness of the tinnitus.
How to relieve tinnitus
There is no cure for tinnitus, but there are many ways you can take control of it and reduce its impact on your life. The combination of sound therapy, education and counselling can be very effective at coping with your symptoms, helping you sleep better, and teaching you how to avoid circumstances that trigger tinnitus.
Although sound cannot eliminate tinnitus, sound therapy can be a helpful tool for managing the symptoms. You listen to different, carefully selected sounds, which can help you feel that your tinnitus is reduced or temporarily gone. It thus becomes easier to hold your attention away from your tinnitus, and helps you to focus on something more pleasant, like sleep. You can find the sound therapy that gives you the most effective relief by working together with your hearing care professional.
Mindfulness and meditation are often recommended to help tinnitus sufferers to train the mind away from the noises and to lower stress and anxiety levels. This is highly recommended to protect against several stress-related conditions, and these are very useful skills to learn in all walks of life.
Think you might have tinnitus?
Tinnitus is often misunderstood and learning more about the condition can help people to cope with it. Here at Hidden Hearing, we work with many people with hearing loss conditions, including tinnitus, and we can talk with you about the different ways it can be managed.