Tinnitus: What You Need To Know
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus generally refers to a ringing, buzzing, whistling or hissing sound in one or both ears that is heard even though there is no external sound present. It can be continuous, come and go or have a pulse/beat like quality.
Tinnitus is not imagined. It is real, and while we don’t fully understand the mechanisms behind tinnitus we suspect it is the result of a malfunction somewhere along the hearing pathway.
How common is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is extremely common. Research suggests that around 30% of people experience tinnitus at some point in their life. 10% of people have constant tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus is more common among people with hearing loss with about 80% of people who experience constant tinnitus have some level of hearing loss.
What causes tinnitus?
Current research and theories around tinnitus consider the cause to be a “hyperactivity” in the Auditory System. The Auditory system includes the ear, the pathways from the ear to the brain (including the auditory nerve) and the Auditory cortex of the brain. Often, tinnitus is the brain’s reaction to an absence of sound.
Exposure to loud noise (prolonged or on an individual occasion) can cause temporary and long-term tinnitus, so it is recommended hearing protection be worn when expose to loud noise for any period of time. Tinnitus can also be triggered by a highly stressful or traumatic event.
How do you treat tinnitus?
In most cases, tinnitus resolves or disappears by itself. In cases where tinnitus is persistent, it can be managed with the assistance of an Audiologist. The first step is a full hearing assessment with an Audiologist experienced in Tinnitus. Gaining an understanding of the likely cause of the tinnitus enables the Audiologist to advise you as to the best way to manage the tinnitus.
Treatments might include counselling, relaxation strategies or the use of amplification or masking. Research has shown that when a hearing loss is also present, hearing aids are often the most effective way to treat tinnitus. Our Audiologists can provide advice as to whether this is appropriate for you, and what sort of hearing aid would be the most effective.
The most important thing to remember about tinnitus is that it is treatable. With the right support, people are able to manage their tinnitus to a point where it is not bothersome