Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound in the absence of an external sound source. It is commonly known as a "head noise", "ear noise" or "ringing in the ears". Tinnitus has been described as: crickets, wind, dripping water, pulsating tones, hissing, buzzing or ringing in the ear. Tinnitus is not a disease in itself, but a symptom related to some other health problems.
- Hearing Loss: Research has shown that more than 80% of persons with tinnitus also have hearing loss.
- Loud noise: Too much exposure to loud noise can cause noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Medications: more than 200 medicines can directly cause tinnitus and many others have it as a possible side effect.
- Other health problems: Allergies, tumours, and problems in the heart and blood vessels, jaw or neck can cause tinnitus.
People are often told that there is no cure for tinnitus and that they simply need to "get used to it". Unfortunately they are given no ideas on how to accomplish that! This is where the role of the audiologist comes into play.
Think about things that will help you cope. Sound therapy, using other sounds from your environment to distract you from the tinnitus, has been proven helpful. Many people find listening to music helpful. Other people like to listen to recorded nature sounds, like ocean waves, wind or even crickets.
Avoid anything that can make your tinnitus worse. This includes smoking, alcohol, loud noise, and above all Silence.
Although there is no cure for tinnitus, there are some well established methods for reducing its effects. Not every treatment works for everyone, so you may need to try several to find the ones that help.
Treatments can include:
- Education: This is where you start. Reading this is a start. Visiting your audiologist and discuss your tinnitus will help.
- Hearing aids: As previously stated most people with tinnitus also have a hearing loss. Wearing hearing aids makes it easier for some people to hear external sounds and makes it less likely that they will hear the tinnitus. The focus of hearing aids should be on making you hear better, and if tinnitus is improved it is a bonus. Hearing aid manufacturers have now developed hearing aids with special features to help with tinnitus.
- 28% of hearing aid users reported moderate-to-substantial reduction in Tinnitus with hearing aids.
- 66% of hearing aid users reported Tinnitus relief most/all of the time with hearing aids.
- 29% reported hearing aids Alleviated their Tinnitus all of the time.
- Sound generators: Some people sleep better when they use a sound generator. Listening to static at a low volume on the radio or using a bedside sound generator can help. These are devices you can put by your bed instead of behind your ear. They can help you ignore the tinnitus to fall asleep.
- Medicine: be careful of "miracle cures" that you see advertised. Quackery still exists
- Tinnitus retraining therapy: This treatment uses a combination of sound generators and counselling. At M&V we follow the Jastreboff model of tinnitus retraining therapy and have both completed the certified course under Dr Pawel Jastreboff. It takes time for this treatment to work, but it can be very helpful.
- Relaxing: Learning how to relax is very helpful when the noise in your ears frustrates you. Stress seems to make tinnitus seem worse. By relaxing you have a chance to rest and cope better with the tinnitus
- Start with the diagnosis: Let your audiologist do diagnostic hearing tests and discuss the treatment plan.
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