With Tinnitus Awareness Week taking place all this week, we decided to focus this blog on Tinnitus and living with it. Ordinarily, Tinnitus is defined as ‘a ringing in the ears’. It is the name given when an individual hears noises that come from inside their body rather than some outside exterior source. There are various symptoms of tinnitus. It can sound like a ringing, roaring, buzzing, clicking, whooshing, humming, hissing, throbbing and even music or singing. It’s possible to hear this in either one or both ears and can be soft or loud, high or low pitched and can come and go or else stay there all the time. Basically, what we are trying to say is when it comes to Tinnitus, everyone is different.
Although most common in people over the age of 65, Tinnitus can affect just about anyone, including children. We all have probably experienced short periods of it in the past, maybe after listening to music with earphones, after a concert or nightclub, or even from random loud noises such as drilling. It’s important to note that Tinnitus is not a disease. It’s also not usually a sign of some serious condition, and generally over time will improve especially with treatments. Sometimes, something as simple as earwax can cause it. Tinnitus is typically an indicator that there is some issue or problem somewhere in the auditory system. Without going into too much detail, the auditory system includes your ear, but also the auditory nerve that connects the brain to the inner ear, as well parts of the brain itself where sounds are processed.
CAUSES OF TINNITUS
So now that we know what Tinnitus is and the symptoms, let’s delve a little deeper into the possible causes.
Hearing Loss - As mentioned with Tinnitus, each individual case is completely unique, but the most common cause is a hearing loss. Sometimes this hearing loss can be very minimal, but still cause Tinnitus. Again, not to get too technical, basically if an individual has a hearing loss, their brain is deprived of the external stimulation it requires. Then, in order to compensate for this loss of sound, our brain searches internally for sound. The brain then detects natural internal head noises and interprets this sound as Tinnitus.
Stress – Stress itself doesn’t cause the onset of Tinnitus, however, it can be a contributing factor and make the effects of Tinnitus worse. Stressful events and significant periods of stress have been known to trigger Tinnitus. It’s also common for existing Tinnitus to worsen during periods of high stress and some even use their Tinnitus as a “Barometer” to measure their stress levels. Of course, the worsening of your Tinnitus when feeling stress just further adds to your issues and lead to you being more stressed which leads to this vicious cycle of stress and Tinnitus influencing each other.
Health Conditions – There are a number of health conditions that can also be a cause of Tinnitus. These health conditions include:
- Noise-induced hearing loss
- Ear and sinus infections
- Diseases of the heart or blood vessels
- Ménière’s disease
- Brain tumours
- Hormonal changes in women
- Thyroid abnormalities
TIPS FOR MANAGING TINNITUS
Talk to an Audiologist – If Tinnitus has become an issue for you and it is affecting your sleep, concentration levels or taking part in regular activities, the first thing you need to do is talk to an Audiologist. Remember that you are not alone and Audiology Medical Services are here to help manage your condition.
Hearing Aids – If you have a hearing loss, use hearing aids. Not only will hearing aids help you hear better, hearing more environmental sounds can help to mask the sound of your Tinnitus.
Relax – As we mentioned, stress can sometimes worsen Tinnitus. Knowing how to avoid anxiety and reduce your stress levels can help you to manage tinnitus.
Improve your Health - It can help Tinnitus to take steps to improve your general health. Having a well-balanced diet and exercising regularly will help your overall wellbeing and may help you to cope with tinnitus more easily.
Chat to others – Sharing experiences and tips with others who have Tinnitus can be really helpful. Also let your family and friends know how Tinnitus affects you. Once your family and friends know how Tinnitus affects you, they’ll be better equipped to support you.
Protect your Ears – Always when possible to do so, protect your ears from loud noises. Exposure to too much loud noise can damage your hearing and worsen existing Tinnitus.
Everyone is Different – It’s important to comprehend that everyone responds to Tinnitus differently. There is no right or wrong way. Just remember that it can be managed, even if it cannot be cured.
Sleep Apps & Equipment – Sleeping is a common problem for those suffering with Tinnitus. Why not research apps and equipment that can help you fall asleep easier and help with a good nights sleep.
Enriched Sound Environment - The use of subtle background noise can be very helpful in certain situations, such as going to bed at night time. A fan, calming music or a water feature are budget-friendly ways to enrich the sound environment.
Habituation – Learning gradually over time to become less aware of the symptoms. Habituation results in less attention being paid to the noise, reducing your fear and anxiety levels.
5 THINGS NOT TO DO IF YOU HAVE TINNITUS
- Do not believe everything you read about Tinnitus. There are articles out there about Tinnitus being cured by certain herbs and supplements, but this would not be advised. The best way to treat Tinnitus is to speak to a professional.
- Do not forget that Tinnitus can be symptom of something else. Don’t ignore it, it’s important to have it checked out.
- Don’t forget about the things that can make Tinnitus worse, such as caffeine, stress, poor sleep and even aspirin.
- Don’t think you are alone with Tinnitus. It’s a very common issue and we are here to help manage it for you.
- Don’t forget about protecting your hearing. Loud noises can make Tinnitus effects worse, so make sure you are taking the necessary precautions when being exposed to loud sounds.
How we can help
If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one with Tinnitus, we are here to help you through this challenging process. To make an appointment to talk to one of Audiology Medical Services’ clinically trained professional audiologists, available at clinics nationwide, freephone 1800 501 501.