Did you know around 18% of Australians* suffer from Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is an auditory perception of hearing ‘phantom’ noises in your ears or in your head.
Primarily noticed in quiet or late at night when trying to sleep, the tinnitus experience is unique to each individual. It may be the sound of summertime cicadas, an ocean roar, empty seashells, or a solo train whistle. For some the experience is a buzzing, a hissing, static or chirping. For others it may be a constant unrelenting tone or a whole melody of chimes.
‘Tinnitus’ (pronocouned TIN-ni-tus) is the Latin word for ‘ringing, tinkling, jingling.’
Multiple theories exist as to where in our auditory system tinnitus occurs, however the exact root and underlining mechanism remains a mystery.
What causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is often attributed to hearing loss or hearing damage. Individuals who are exposed to dangerously loud sounds frequently develop tinnitus. It sometimes only takes one episode of exposure to a very loud sound that may result in the beginning of someone’s tinnitus.
Tinnitus may also be a symptom and indication of an underlining medical condition. (E.g. a cardiovascular anomaly, Meniere’s disease, or an acoustic neuroma).
Sometimes tinnitus is purely due to an excessive build-up of ear wax!
Certain medications have also been linked to the onset of tinnitus.
There is a close relationship between the tinnitus and psychological distress
Tinnitus sufferers who experience depression, anxiety, insomnia and other sleep problems may be aware their tinnitus is worse when they are particularly stressed/tired.
It is assumed that tinnitus is the result of increased spontaneous activity in auditory nerve fibers. When your brain receives a tinnitus sensation, a series of checks and balances occur.
The brain ‘checks it,’ ‘categorizes it,’ and ‘assigns meaning’ to it. When the random noise or ringing isn’t identified and the source of tinnitus can’t be found, the perception of the sound may become more focused and amplified – especially when someone has negative thoughts or consistent worries surrounding the experience.
Tinnitus becomes louder and louder and more persistent by focusing, worrying, and thinking about it. Conversely, once your brain recognizes tinnitus as non-threatening, the sensation can be reduced and can retreat to the background of perception.
Tips for successful Tinnitus management
- Retraining your brain to ignore tinnitus. This requires a combination of sound enrichment and counselling to help alleviate negative reactions to their tinnitus;
- Avoiding extreme silence: This provides a sense of relief from tinnitus;
- Overcoming any fear and worries: Reducing your negative emotional response to tinnitus;
- Sound therapy: Distract yourself from hearing tinnitus by listening to relaxing music or white noise; Our own Dr. Ryan O’Clair recommends https://mynoise.net/
- Book an appointment with a audiological clinician to be properly assessed.
Importantly, hearing aids are also helpful for tinnitus treatment and relief.
How do hearing aids help Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is usually localized toward the affected ear which has a hearing loss. Hearing aids help activate the auditory system by increasing sound stimulation. Quite often the area in our auditory system that has the loss, is the same area that has tinnitus. E.g. if you have a high frequency ringing, you may have high frequency hearing loss.
Hearing aids help increase clarity to the auditory system, and with additional sound information being received, your brain will pay less attention to the tinnitus. Hearing aids essentially help stimulate the auditory nerve and help individuals ‘hear around’ the tinnitus.
Hearing aids help people with tinnitus in several ways:
- They make external sounds more audible and comfortable, making the tinnitus less noticeable;
- They reduce the effort a sufferer exerts to listen against incessant internal ringing, making communication easier;
- They enhance the sensation of sounds and voices being masked by tinnitus.
If you or someone you love are experiencing tinnitus, call us and chat to our consultants who are here to help.
It’s important to note Tinnitus can be a symptom of a more serious medical condition, so always consult your GP.
*Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020.