Ringing in Your Ears?
Have you ever heard ringing or hissing noises in your ears after a loud concert or a night club? This is known as tinnitus.
The sound can range from very quiet background noise to a disturbing loud noise. It can be intermittent or continuous, and can vary in loudness. It is often perceived louder when there is no other noise around you, so you may be more aware of it at night when you are trying to fall asleep or in a quiet room. It will usually go away after a day or so but sometimes, particularly if you are often in loud noise, it will not. The majority of sufferers endure an acute phase of distress when the problem begins, followed by an improvement over time. However, for a minority of patients the distress is on-going, and they will require specialist support.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a noise generated in our own auditory pathways. The cause is not completely understood but it is clear that it can often occur following exposure to loud noise, including music. It is generally thought that there are multiple possible mechanisms for tinnitus generation, which might explain why different treatments might work for different people.
Who can develop tinnitus?
People of all ages can experience tinnitus, including children. In the UK alone around 10% of the population experience tinnitus.
What to do if you think you might have tinnitus?
Once you believe that you have tinnitus then you should immediately contact an audiologist, otologist or otolaryngologist. They should examine you to find if the cause of your tinnitus is from a treatable medical condition. Always remember that because tinnitus is caused by so many factors you could naturally have a reduction in your level of noise without receiving any treatment.
Possible treatments for tinnitus
- Amplification (Hearing Aids): The use of hearing aids may bring back the ambient sounds, which in turn will help the patient take less notice of their tinnitus. This is usually for patients with hearing loss and most of them are very likely to experience relief from tinnitus while they wore hearing aids.
- Cognitive Therapy: The goal of this therapy is to alter the patient’s perception of tinnitus. This will help the patient not to fixate on the negative aspects of tinnitus, but rather to focus on the positive outcomes in coping with your ailment. Cognitive therapy works best when combined with masking or medication treatments.
- Sound Therapy: Sound is used to partially or completely cover the tinnitus with the use of both wearable and non-wearable devices. This treatment sometimes called masking and should always be combined with counselling.
- Biofeedback: This is a relaxation technique that tries to change the body’s reaction to stress. It teaches the patient to control their involuntary body functions. Some examples of involuntary body functions are pulse, and muscle tension. Patients noticed a reduction in their tinnitus when they could adjust their reaction to stress in their lives.
- Cochlear Implants/Electrical Stimulation: The cochlear implant will allow you to hear more ambient sounds which will mask the tinnitus. The implant will also send electrical stimulation through the auditory nerve which could help in tinnitus relief.
If you are worried about your tinnitus, our audiologist can help you decide on the best course of action for you. Having tinnitus does not mean you will automatically have hearing loss but it is advisable to have your hearing checked.