The Message of Tinnitus

Sunset over calm river in the park

The Message of Tinnitus2

By Natalie Buttress

My patients tell me: The worst message I heard about my tinnitus is: “You can’t do anything about it.” Sadly, it is the most common message that medical professionals give patients with tinnitus. Even more so, because it is not entirely true.

Did  you know: In about 80% of tinnitus patients, there is a corresponding hearing loss? One of the primary causes of the sensation of tinnitus is loss of hearing for soft ambient sound in the surroundings. The hearing loss can be caused by a blockage, such as wax or fluid in the ear; OR deterioration in the function of the nerve cells for hearing. Most often, your tinnitus is not a dangerous symptom. Only in a very small number of patients, is it a sign of a more serious underlying condition. However, a professional assessment is necessary in order to adequately differentiate.

Did you know: There is a high correlation between the experience of clinically significant tinnitus and high levels of stress, anxiety, depression or sleep disorders in patients? (“Clinically Significant” means that tinnitus interferes with the person’s everyday quality of life). A Stressed person tends to respond differently to tinnitus than someone who is not stressed. The stress reaction can drive tinnitus from a minor sound, to a major problem.

Did you know: Most people who experience tinnitus consult Dr. Google extensively before, or between seeing properly qualified and knowledgeable medical professionals? Unfortunately internet searches of any medical condition provide mostly negative information from people who have not achieved adequate management. (See British Tinnitus Association  for good information). Also, people with tinnitus want a cure ( as opposed to good management of  the condition), so they fall prey to a vast number of treatment offers that are unscientifically proven, and sometimes just plain dangerous!

Did you know: Some or all of the following are scientifically researched methods that can assist with tinnitus management: correction for hearing loss; relaxation techniques; sound therapy; sleep management; cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). An audiologist who works with tinnitus  should be able to provide assistance in some of these areas and refer you to a knowledgeable medical doctor or psychologist to manage those that are not in the  scope of practice for Audiology.

Take Home Messages:

  • Proper assessment and management of hearing loss and tinnitus by an audiologist who is trained to manage hearing loss and tinnitus may help.
  • Good Stress management may help.
  • Better sleep may help.
  • Changing how you think about your tinnitus may help (guided by a professional)

Perhaps the two most important message we can take to heart are:

  • Our pace of life needs to be slowed down to support our health.
  • There is something that you can do about your tinnitus!