What Is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the perception of sound inside the ear or head when no external sound is present. People often think of tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound but it can take on many forms, such as pulsing, whistling, or the sound of crickets chirping. Tinnitus volume can vary and sometimes more than one type sound is present.

Tinnitus is very common, with the majority of people noticing the occasional noise in their ears. For some people, tinnitus can be there all the time. The majority of people are not bothered by tinnitus, however in some cases it can have a negative impact on our quality of life.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is not a disease or disorder in itself but rather a symptom of a disturbance in our hearing system. Our hearing system is calibrated to detect all of the necessary sounds to understand speech and the environment around us. When any part of this delicate system is disturbed tinnitus is a possible side effect. Common causes of disturbance to our hearing system include:

  • Excessive noise exposure.
  • Hearing loss.
  • Certain medical conditions.
  • Head and / or ear trauma.
  • Certain medications or combinations of medications.

Effects of Tinnitus:

The effects of tinnitus can be varied and may include sleep disturbance, irritability, frustration, poor concentration, depression and/or anxiety, withdrawal from social activities, fatigue, strain on relationships and the perception that tinnitus is interfering with our ability to hear. Tinnitus can sometimes become louder when we are stressed, tired, consume too much caffeine, nicotine or alcohol, and take certain medications.

What Can I Do About My Tinnitus?

It is important to consult your Doctor or Audiologist when you first notice tinnitus to determine if it has an underlying medical cause. Once the cause of tinnitus is narrowed down, management can be implemented if needed. Some common management strategies for tinnitus include:

  • Reducing noise exposure: This is particularly important if you work in a noisy industry. Make sure you are always using hearing protection and try to reduce exposure times.
  • Reducing tinnitus triggers: This can be as simple as ensuring you’re getting a good night’s sleep, or reducing alcohol, caffeine and nicotine consumption.
  • Hearing Aids: If hearing loss is the cause of your tinnitus, a hearing aid can help restore the imbalance that this has created in your hearing system. A lot of hearing aids also have inbuilt tinnitus sound generators and allow you to have a dedicated tinnitus masking program.
  • Tinnitus Apps: There are a number of apps available that can help mask tinnitus and aid in relaxation. Some apps to consider are: Relax Melodies, Beltone Tinnitus Calmer, Oticon Tinnitus Sound, GN ReSound Tinnitus Relief and Tinnitus Notched Tunes.
  • Sound Generators: Sound generators can provide relief from tinnitus both throughout the day and when trying to sleep at night. They come in a variety of different forms, with both table top and under pillow options available.
  • Seek Professional Support: If you feel that your tinnitus is having a significant impact on your quality of life, it may be time to seek the assistance of a counsellor or psychologist with a focus on tinnitus therapy. A resource in Adelaide is John Wibrow at the Tinnitus Clinic.

Don’t hesitate to seek the advice of a hearing professional if you are experiencing bothersome tinnitus.  If you have any questions or would like further information please call or book a consultation at one of our clinics. Simply call 8331 8047 to book your free appointment.