Tinnitus: The Persistent Ringing and How to Manage It
Tinnitus, often described as a constant ringing, buzzing or hissing in the ears, is a common condition affecting millions of people. Despite its prevalence, it's often misunderstood. Let's explore tinnitus in a simple, accessible way and discuss how to manage this pesky issue.
1. What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no external noise is present. It's not a disease in itself but a symptom of an underlying health condition, often related to hearing health.
The noise can vary significantly between individuals. Some may hear a high-pitched ringing, while others experience a buzzing, hissing, or even a humming sound. It may be continuous or intermittent and can occur in one or both ears.
2. What Causes Tinnitus?
Various factors can trigger tinnitus:
- Hearing Loss: Age-related or noise-induced hearing loss can lead to tinnitus.
- Ear and Sinus Infections: These can cause pressure changes in the ear resulting in tinnitus.
- Exposure to Loud Noise: Concerts, loud music, or noisy machinery can trigger temporary or even permanent tinnitus.
- Certain Medications: Some drugs are ototoxic, which means they can cause tinnitus as a side effect.
- Stress and Anxiety: These are not direct causes, but can exacerbate tinnitus symptoms.
3. Types of Tinnitus
There are two main types of tinnitus:
- Subjective Tinnitus is the most common type, only audible to the person affected. It's often linked to hearing loss, either from ageing or exposure to loud noise.
- Objective Tinnitus: This is a rare form of tinnitus that the examiner can hear during a hearing test. It's usually caused by a physical issue, such as a problem with blood vessels, muscles, or bones in the ear.
4. Diagnosing Tinnitus
Our experienced consultant audiologist Eilene can diagnose tinnitus by conducting a comprehensive hearing test and discussing your symptoms. This will often include a pure tone test, a bone conduction test, and a detailed look at your medical history.
5. Managing Tinnitus
While there's currently no cure for tinnitus, various strategies can help manage the condition:
- Hearing Aids: If tinnitus is accompanied by hearing loss, hearing aids can help by amplifying external sounds, making the internal tinnitus sound less prominent.
- Sound Therapy: This uses external noises to alter the perception of, or reaction to, tinnitus. For example, white noise machines or tinnitus maskers can help drown out the ringing or buzzing.
- Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) combines sound therapy with educational counselling to help you manage tinnitus sounds and reduce their impact on your life.
- Lifestyle Modifications: Reducing exposure to loud noises, managing stress, and limiting caffeine and alcohol can all help reduce tinnitus symptoms.
Dealing with tinnitus can be frustrating, but you don't have to manage it alone. Eilene, our consultant audiologist at Buchanan Audiologists, can provide personalised solutions and support. To find out more, call now on 01634 757045 to book a comprehensive hearing consultation. You're not alone on this journey; there are ways to manage tinnitus better and improve your quality of life.