Tinnitus
COMMON SYMPTOMS AND HOW TO COPE WITH IT

Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, humming or swooshing sound heard internally without any external sound stimulus, Some patients also experience a feeling of “fullness” in the head. Tinnitus can either be constant or appear sporadically. It can also seem worse when there are no background noises – which means that the symptoms are generally more severe at night. Tinnitus can feel as if it is in the middle of the head or can feel located to one side. It can seem to pulse or stay constant. Often, hearing a sound that isn’t there can seem very distressing.

80% of tinnitus cases exist together with hearing loss – from very mild to severe. Sometimes the person isn’t aware of the hearing loss. The amount of distress or annoyance varies from patient to patient. In some cases, it is easy to ignore and does not feel distressing. In other cases the noise can affect a person’s life.

NB Hearing’s audiologists have experience in assisting people with tinnitus. We have current knowledge of the field of research in tinnitus. We also ensure that we are equipped with techniques that have a scientific basis to diagnose and help people to manage their experience of tinnitus and other internal sound experiences such as hyperacusis and misophonia.

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    Management of tinnitus, hyperacusis and misophonia follows the course of diagnosis, information-sharing, counselling, limited cognitive behavioural therapy, relaxation techniques and the precise fitting of instruments. These instruments may be used for sound stimulus AND hearing loss combined, or for tinnitus or hyperacusis alone (via devices with exclusive sound stimuli). These devices will help to retrain the brain to reduce the amount of annoyance caused by tinnitus.

    Since the symptoms of tinnitus, hyperacusis and misophonia are sometimes distressing to the hearer, people are often prepared to try anything to ‘fix’ the problem. We encourage you to see someone qualified to assess you, to avoid unproven techniques for management. which can be harmful. Be guided by a qualified medical professional.

    Secondary symptoms of tinnitus:

    Other symptoms related to tinnitus differ from one patient to the next, but some patients suffering from tinnitus may also experience:

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    Defining tinnitus through proper diagnosis

    Tinnitus can be a symptom of an underlying hearing condition or illness. In cases where the symptoms of tinnitus are a result of an underlying condition, it may be reduced by treating the underlying cause.

    The exact causes of tinnitus are extremely varied, and research is ongoing to define the parts of the brain that may contribute to the experience of tinnitus. There are several conditions or activities that may cause or worsen it.

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    Some of these known causes include:

    • Hearing loss related to ageing
    • Continuous exposure to noise
    • Earwax blockage causing irritation
    • Changing of the size and shape of the middle ear bones
    • Certain medications
    • Certain consumed products, such as caffeine and salt
    • Jaw and teeth problems
    • Head or neck injuries
    • High blood pressure or blood sugar
    • Rarely, benign growths pressing on the auditory nerve

    Regardless of the cause, the presence of tinnitus may lead to distress in the forms of anxiety, stress, insomnia, and depression. Good management gives you information and helps relaxation. Using behavioural techniques and sound generators can lead to reduce tinnitus distress and more productive, relaxed lives. Tinnitus research is an active field and our practitioners read extensively and attend coursework to further enable us to support you.

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    On diagnosing tinnitus:

    If you are unsure what to expect when visiting the audiologist to diagnose your tinnitus, here is an indication of the various tests you might be subjected to, depending on the severity of your condition:

    • Hearing test – a hearing test will be conducted on each ear. Doing this will enable your audiologist to identify causes for your tinnitus and to diagnose its severity.
    • A type of test that measures your perception of your tinnitus
    • Movement test – an audiologist may ask you to move your eyes, legs, neck, or arms, and to clench your jaw.
    • Filling out a specially designed questionnaire
    • Imaging test – if required, your audiologist may suggest that you are referred to an Ear Nose and Throat specialist or other type of doctor, who may order imaging tests such as CT or MRI scans. This is dependent on the types of symptoms and other test results that we find.

    Getting relief from tinnitus:

    Because tinnitus can seem so distressing, most patients seek a cure. It is possible that managing or treating the underlying cause may remove the tinnitus. However, in many cases, tinnitus is not curable, but managing the response often results in the improved perception of it.

    Getting relief is possible and patients can learn to cope with the symptoms. Treatments and therapy differ from patient to patient, depending on the reason for their tinnitus. Effective therapies include acoustic stimulation, behavioural therapy, medication, physiotherapy, or brain stimulation (either magnetic or electrical).

    Certain lifestyle changes can also help patients suffering from tinnitus to cope with the constant ringing or buzzing in their ears. These include:

    • Daily exercise
    • Dietary changes – focus on following a healthy, nutritious diet
    • Getting enough sleep
    • Drinking enough water
    • Stop smoking
    • Try some meditation or relaxation exercises that can help you relax
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    You may feel helpless and frustrated. Whether you think that the ringing in your ears is a symptom of a greater problem, or an isolated issue it is best to start with a visit to an audiologist. A known entity is always easier to manage than the unknown.

    To make an appointment, or to talk to one of our audiologists send us an email or to give us a call. NB Hearing’s audiologists can help you find solutions to manage your tinnitus.