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Tinnitus Treatment

Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. It is an is an extremely common condition that is often perceived as ringing, buzzing or hissing.  The phantom noise may vary in pitch from a low roar to a high squeal, and you may hear it in one or both ears. In some cases, the sound can be so loud it can interfere with your ability to concentrate or hear external sound. It may be present all the time, or it may come and go.

Tinnitus isn’t a condition itself — it’s a symptom of an underlying condition, such as hearing loss, ear injury or a circulatory system disorder. The best tinnitus treatment for you will depend on the cause of your symptoms. medications, for example, it may be possible to switch to an alternative to eliminate tinnitus symptoms. If you experience tinnitus as a side-effect of a neurological issue or structural abnormality, it may be possible that surgical intervention may be used to resolve the underlying cause and reduce your symptoms.

Although there is no magic cure, we can successfully manage tinnitus in most cases with a variety of techniques that can considerably reduce its perception and impact.

Assessment & Treatment Plans

Causes Of Tinnitus

The precise cause of tinnitus remains a mystery in most cases. It is believed that the ringing is due to activity in the cochlea that spontaneously begins, usually due to some inciting event. The most common contributing event that leads to tinnitus is sensorineural hearing loss – commonly associated with ageing or noise exposure. This type of hearing loss is caused by damage to the tiny, delicate hairs in your inner ear that move through fluid in response to the pressure of sound waves. This triggers an electrical signal through a nerve from your ear (auditory nerve) to your brain. Your brain interprets these signals as sound. If the hairs inside your inner ear are bent or broken, they can “leak” random electrical impulses to your brain, causing tinnitus.

Other factors which may cause tinnitus or make existing tinnitus worse include noise-induced hearing loss, age-related hearing loss, ear diseases, wax build-up in the ear canal, ear infections, jaw disorders, teeth grinding, cardiovascular disease, some tumours and many others.

Many people will often notice that their tinnitus is worse during times of fatigue, stress, poor sleep or after long periods of concentrating. This is most likely because you divert your brain power to dealing with these things, leaving less emotional power to supress the irritating tinnitus.

The most common reason that you may perceive tinnitus, however, is hearing loss. When the brain doesn’t receive sound from the ears, the perception of the ringing or buzzing is far more obvious due to the absence of anything to obscure or ‘mask’ it. The analogy of a candle illustrates the point – place a candle in a dark room and it seems bight, prominent and penetrating. Place the same candle outside in the sun and its effect is barely noticeable. The theory then is that it is possible to substantially reduce both the loudness and annoyance of tinnitus by reducing its prominence.

There is also a theory that, when the brain cannot hear certain frequencies due to hearing loss at those pitches, the brain will create a phantom sound to replace it. My clients very regularly identify the pitch of their tinnitus to closely match the frequency at which they have their greatest hearing loss.

For this reason we recommend a detailed Audiological assessment and, if required, further medical examination. Although a specific cause of tinnitus may not be discovered, the buzzing, roaring, chirping or hissing should not be ignored as it can be significantly relieved in most cases.

Treatment

Hearing care professionals agree almost unanimously that most people who have tinnitus and wear hearing aids will experience relief from tinnitus when wearing their hearing aids.

Hearing aids are good at reducing the perception of tinnitus as they address both above theories. Firstly, they restore the sounds that the brain is missing.  This acts to shut off or reduce the phantom sound in over 50% of individuals by retraining the brain to focus on other sounds. Secondly, hearing aids increase the perception of the surrounding environment, reducing the irritating prominence of the tinnitus by shifting the focus of an individual’s attention away from the tinnitus noise. This can greatly help in eliminating negative side effects such as stress and anxiety.

Some of these individuals also experience residual inhibition which is the reduction of tinnitus perception even after removing hearing aids.  This inhibited perception of tinnitus can last for a few minutes to several hours.

Unfortunately, not everyone notices a reduction in the perception of their tinnitus while wearing a hearing aid.  For these individuals, a tinnitus masker may be the best option.  This is when a sound is generated by a hearing aid that masks over the perception of the ringing or buzzing tinnitus sound. While any hearing aid can minimize the symptoms of tinnitus by improving your hearing function, there are a range of hearing aids with special functions for tackling tinnitus. These are designed to both improve hearing function and give you relief from the symptoms of tinnitus,.

Initially, maskers where quite crude, however, most major manufacturers have developed sophisticated masking technology that can be accurately adjusted to suit everyone. Everyone has different preferences, so different devices offer a variety of noises to choose from, which can be generated from the hearing aid itself, or streamed to the hearing aids from a tinnitus app.

Sound therapy using white noise or other calming noises, is proven to help relieve tinnitus for most people. Masking noise is usually presented at a slightly quieter volume level than tinnitus but finding the right volume level will require some trial and error. The ideal volume is a level at which the tinnitus noise is still heard, but the relative loudness of it is reduced by having background sound therapy at a lower level, which then diminishes the perception of the tinnitus noise.

Other Treatments

The management of tinnitus is best achieved by making practical adjustments to your daily life to reduce the perception of tinnitus that become habits. These small lifestyle adjustments become integrated into normal life so that you don’t think about them, and consequently don’t think about and focus on the tinnitus. Turning the radio on when you enter the quiet kitchen in the morning, placing a sound generator under your pillow or putting a pedestal fan in your room at night are just a few suggestions.

It is important to note that there is no cure for tinnitus. The perception of tinnitus is a symptom and that we are aiming to effectively manage and push into the background. With proper treatment you can experience real relief from the irritation of tinnitus.

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