Do you or someone you know suffer from ringing in the ears? This is most likely tinnitus and around 30 per cent of Australians are living with the condition.
The major problem with tinnitus is that there’s no definitive cure and many of those affected can continue to suffer. Despite the number of people living with the condition, there’s still considerable confusion about what it means to have tinnitus and how it can be managed.
What is tinnitus?
Have you ever been to a concert and experienced ringing in your ears? For most people, this soon stops. For others, it becomes a chronic condition. Tinnitus happens after damage occurs to the tiny sensory hair cells in the cochlea of the inner ear. Unfortunately, once these hairs become damaged, they don’t repair themselves.
Causes of tinnitus
Tinnitus can be caused by several factors. Some can contribute to persistent tinnitus, while others can be responsible for the temporary tinnitus that most people will experience at some point in their lives.
Causes can include:
- exposure to loud noise
- age-related hearing loss
- earwax blockage
- stress and fatigue
- excessive alcohol intake
- excessive caffeine intake.
How is tinnitus diagnosed
Diagnosing tinnitus starts with recognising what it sounds like. Research suggests that 15 per cent of those affected suffer constant annoyance as a result of the condition – with some saying it affects the quality of their lives. The sooner you diagnose the problem, the better the chance you will have of treating it properly.
Tinnitus can present in a number of pitches, strengths and frequencies. Sufferers report hearing ringing, roaring, clicking, buzzing and hissing noises. A qualified audiologist can diagnose if you are suffering from this condition. You will probably be asked a series of questions, such as:
- How or when did it start?
- Are the sounds constant or recurrent?
- Do you have jaw pain or clicking?
- Have you recently experienced an illness or injury?
You may also be required to have a complete ear, head neck and torso exam, along with hearing and blood tests.
Treatment for tinnitus
For some people, tinnitus eventually goes away. However, for the majority of people experiencing ongoing tinnitus, whilst there is no cure, there is treatment for these symptoms. Sufferers are encouraged to learn to tune out the constant noise and find relief by focusing attention away from the sound.
Sound therapy – the method of using external noise to mask the person’s perception of tinnitus through low-level background music, white noise or specialised ear maskers – can also provide relief from symptoms.
Hearing aids may also help alleviate the symptoms of the condition by:
- masking the noise resulting from tinnitus so that the sufferer is less aware,
- increasing external noise to stimulate the auditory response from the brain,
- amplifying the volume from television, radio, telephones, etc. to be greater than the tinnitus noise, so the perception is that the tinnitus noise is less audible.
So how do you know if you have ongoing tinnitus or, if that ringing in your ears will go away of it’s own volition? Taking an online hearing test is the first step to help you evaluate the extent of your tinnitus. You can then follow up with a free discussion with a fully qualified Australian Hearing audiologist. And there’s no need to be concerned about being talked into wearing a hearing aid – the audiologist is there to discuss your condition and suggest ways in which you can manage your tinnitus
To speak to an Australian hearing audiologist simply call 1800 740 301 Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm AEST