Tinnitus is the perception of noise, such as ringing, buzzing or clicking in your ears. Everyone experiences tinnitus sporadically from time to time but usually the perceived noise is very brief.
However, for around 15 – 20% of people the buzzing or ringing is permanent.
If the tinnitus is constant and intense it can be very unpleasant, make it hard to concentrate or fall asleep, and can also lead to anxiety or depression.
Why do I have tinnitus?
Having tinnitus does not necessarily mean a person is going deaf, but it can be an early sign of hearing loss.
Tinnitus usually occurs due to aging or exposure to loud noise. The brain then tries to make sense of the change in your hearing system, by amplifying the change, and therefore creating tinnitus.
Tinnitus can also be caused by head and neck injuries such as whiplash, an infection in the ear, stress, raised blood pressure, medication, surgery or inner-ear pressure caused by scuba diving. In certain circumstances, the tinnitus can also be caused by excess ear wax.
If I develop tinnitus, what should I do?
If you suffer from tinnitus you should first discuss it with your doctor. Sometimes the cause can be treated medically by the GP, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) or cardiovascular specialist.
If the problem doesn′t have an immediate medical solution, you can get an assessment with a hearing therapist or audiologist.
It’s important to understand that most cases of tinnitus cannot be cured, only managed. Due to this, a medical professional such as an audiologist should help you develop an informed approach to manage it.
Below are some of the common strategies you can use to help manage the impact of your tinnitus.
Tips for Managing Tinnitus
Stress is known to aggravate tinnitus. It is recommended to try relaxation techniques, such as listening to soothing sounds, yoga, and meditation, can help.
Counselling from an audiologist, hearing therapist, otologist or other trained people can help lessen the impact of tinnitus.
Your doctor or local audiology clinic should be able to connect you with a therapist if they don't offer this service.
Auditory habituation therapy aims to get the brain so used to a neutral sound that it mixes with the tinnitus and no longer pays attention to it. If the brain becomes accustomed to the sound - it may learn to ignore the tinnitus completely.
Special hearing aid-like devices can help to mask Tinnitus by playing certain types of noise, for example, white noise or static.
Some devices combine amplification and producing sound (combination aids).
See your local audiology clinic to learn more.
Tinnitus can often be worse at night, and make sleep difficult. A radio tuned between stations on the FM produces static or white noise that can prove helpful. Some masking devices can be programmed to play a number of different masking sounds (e.g. static, rainfall, ocean or surf).
Many different foods, drinks and medicines make tinnitus worse for some people.
As the effects of foods differ widely, it is best to try and identify those which are causing a problem. Start with those that are high in caffeine, such as coffee, tea or chocolate, very salty foods, red wine, and cheese.