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.
We have compiled some tips to help you manage your tinnitus, which you can find below.
Tips for Managing Tinnitus
Stress is known to aggravate tinnitus. Relaxation techniques, such as listening to soothing music, yoga, and meditation, can help.
Counselling from an audiologist, hearing therapist, otologist or other trained person can help lessen the impact of tinnitus. Counsellors can reassure you that the sounds are real, explain the mechanisms of tinnitus, and discuss the different therapies and coping techniques. This can reduce your anxiety, which in turn can reduce the impact of the tinnitus itself.
Auditory habituation therapy
Auditory habituation therapy is available through some audiology clinics. It attempts to get the brain so accustomed to a neutral sound that mixes with the tinnitus that it no longer pays attention to it. If the brain becomes accustomed to the sound generated externally, then it may learn to ignore the tinnitus itself. Habituation therapies usually combine sound therapy with counselling.
The difference between a person who experiences tinnitus and one who 'suffers' from it may be the person’s ability to ignore, or get used to (habituate to) the tinnitus.
The environment is full of noises that our hearing system filters out as unimportant, while faint sounds that it considers significant are given more attention. For example, hearing your name against the background babble of a cocktail party, or an ambulance siren in the din of traffic.
If noises associated with tinnitus are viewed as threatening or annoying, the auditory system will more readily pay attention to them, making them seem even noisier and harder to ignore, and a vicious circle is established. For this reason, it is important to try and find ways to live with tinnitus, and not to let it worry you.
Special hearing aid-like devices can generate certain types of noise – broadband (for example, white noise or static) or environmental sound (for example, the sound of waves or hiss of traffic noise).
Some devices combine amplification and producing sound (combination aids).
Initially these devices help only when they are worn, as the sound they generate reduces the contrast between tinnitus-related and normal auditory activity. In six to 18 months, if you use them for over eight hours each day, the tinnitus may fade enough for you to stop using the hearing aid.
Other masking devices
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). To prevent annoying others, you can use headphones or pillow speakers. Pillow speakers plug into a standard headphone socket and are slipped under the pillow.
A special sound pillow is available which plugs into a radio, walkman, or CD player. It can be used with special tapes, or with the radio tuned between stations on the FM frequency.
You can get downloads, often free, of different types of masking sounds such as ‘white’, ‘blue’ or ‘pink’ noise, the sound of waves, rain, air conditioning, a fan turning. Play them on a CD player or MP3 player.
Diet and medication
Many different foods, drinks and medicines make tinnitus worse for some people, but don’t affect others.
However, as the effects of foods differ widely, it is better to try and identify those which are causing a problem, rather than giving them up all at once.
If you are worried that your diet might be affecting your tinnitus, try giving up one food for about a month at a time, reintroduce it, and repeat until you have worked out which ones (if any) seem to make it worse.
Foods to start with are those high in caffeine, such as coffee, tea or chocolate, very salty foods, red wine, tonic water (quinine) and some cheeses. If you find that a certain food does aggravate your tinnitus, you then have to decide which is worse, the louder tinnitus, or giving up a food you enjoy.
Overall it is important to maintain a healthy balanced diet, as anything which improves your state of health will likely reduce your levels of tiredness and general stress, which may well help your tinnitus. Similarly, giving up smoking will improve your health, and so is likely to help your tinnitus.
NFDHH have partnered with Tinnitus Tunes, which enables us to offer all our members a discount code. Please use: NFD27 to receive a 20% discount on the standard fees for Tinnitus Tunes.
Auckland University’s Tinnitus team have helped over 80% of their members significantly change their tinnitus. Tinnitus Tunes have over 33 countries using their content and treatment.
A good night’s sleep can be achieved through the Tinnitus Tunes 12-week programme by no longer being aware of the tinnitus sound. They are now able to enjoy the simple things in life, like listening to music or going out with loved ones.
By taking the Tinnitus Tunes 5-minute online quiz, Tinnitus Tunes will be able to offer a 12-week programme based on the type of tinnitus someone may have.
As Tinnitus Tunes was created by tinnitus experts from Auckland University, they have the luxury to have content from 5 leading universities from around the world. Because of this Tinnitus Tunes have access to the leading and current tinnitus research and treatments which are regularly shared with their Tinnitus Tunes members.
If you are interested in signing up to Tinnitus Tunes, don’t forget to use our members discount: NFD27 to receive a 20% discount.
Tinnibot is a new virtual companion in your pocket, to help you manage tinnitus.
Tinnibot is a project lead by Dr Fabrice Bardy and Dr Matthieu Recugnat. Research is currently underway in the UK and in NZ.
However, they would like to get feedback from the larger community!
Tinnibot uses evidence-based techniques for tinnitus treatment such as cognitive behavioural therapy, mindfulness and sound therapy to improve mental wellbeing and increase resilience. It is an 8 week program that is currently free while in the beta stage.
How to become a beta user:
1. Register at: http://hearingpower.co/get_started
2. Check your email and download Tinnibot on your phone (link inside the email)
3. Create an account in the app
4. Use the Referral Code that is inside the email to unlock the 8-week program.
Auditory Processing Disorder (APD), also known as central deafness) is a hearing disorder that affects how the brain processes speech. To learn more about APD and to access the latest national guidelines for APD, click the button below.
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Hearing Aid Fund
Hearing aids are life-changing for those who need them, but they are extremely expensive.
The Hearing Aid Fund has been created to assist New Zealanders with hearing loss who are facing financial hardship to purchase new hearing aids.