The Tinnitus guide: Everything you need to know
Around 10 per cent of the UK population are affected by tinnitus – the often frustrating condition with which you hear sounds with no external source. Symptoms can vary, but in the most severe cases can cause stress and even sleep problems
Although there’s no outright cure for tinnitus, there are several ways it can be managed. This is everything you need to know about the condition:
Q: What is tinnitus?
A: “Tinnitus” is the term used to describe a sound in our ears or head, whether permanent or temporary, that doesn’t come from an external source. The most common form, subjective tinnitus, can be any sound; for example buzzing, humming, whistling, or even music. With the much rarer other form, objective tinnitus, the ears amplify sounds within the body, such as your heartbeat or blood flow.
Q: What causes tinnitus?
A: Usually there is not a specific known cause of tinnitus, although exposure to loud music, such as a concert, is one that many of us may be familiar with. Occasionally tinnitus can be related to ear wax build-up, hearing loss or an underlying health condition, so if you have any concerns, discuss it with your local audiologist.
Q: Is there a cure for tinnitus?
A: Unfortunately there is no known cure for tinnitus, although it is an area that a lot of research is being carried out on. Depending on how severe your tinnitus is, there are options; such as completing a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), wearing hearing aids, or using tinnitus maskers.
Q: Should I speak to someone about my tinnitus?
A: It’s always worth visiting your local audiologist if you have any concerns about tinnitus. They will be able to check your ears and hearing, and advise whether there may be any underlying causes. It’s especially important to seek advice if your tinnitus is:
- Causing you any level of distress, anxiety or worry
- If it’s preventing daily behaviours, such as concentration or sleep
- If it sounds pulsatile, like your heartbeat
- If it is always only in one ear
Q: What can I do for my tinnitus?
A: If the tinnitus is permanent, some people can find their tinnitus simply improves with time, as the brain gets more used to it, and others find it can fluctuate with things such as stress or tiredness. Managing it and learning how to relax through tinnitus therapy can help.
A lot of people report that they are more aware of their tinnitus in very quiet environments, so it often helps to create some other background noise, such as the radio or playing calming sounds to help you sleep. Focussing on your tinnitus too much can cause the brain to perceive it more loudly, so anything which diverts your attention from the tinnitus should help.
Q: Will hearing aids help?
A: Sometimes tinnitus can be related to hearing loss, hence why an audiologist would always test your hearing if you are complaining of tinnitus. If this is the case, then you may find that hearing aids help you manage your tinnitus better, as the brain will be stimulated by other sounds. Some combination hearing aids are available which play sounds like steady white noise or ocean waves to help move your attention away from your tinnitus, while also improving your hearing.
If you have any questions or concerns about tinnitus or your hearing, speak to your local audiologist at The Hearing Care Partnership, who will be happy to help you with a tailored hearing care plan.