Characterized by ringing or buzzing in the ears, tinnitus can be a frustrating and challenging condition to live with. Although people with tinnitus can often ‘hear’ noises, these sounds don’t have an external cause. As a result, people with tinnitus typically experience on-going irritation due to the presence of a sound that isn’t really there.
What is Tinnitus?
Most people assume that tinnitus refers to a buzzing or ringing sound in the ears, but tinnitus can also involve clicking, whooshing, humming, hissing, or other types of sounds. For some people, tinnitus causes constant noise, which can make it difficult to concentrate on day-to-day tasks and can affect quality of life.
Although the cause of tinnitus is not yet fully known, it’s often associated with hearing loss. If the cilia in the ear become damaged, for example, hearing loss and tinnitus may occur. Some researchers believe the absence of sound, caused by hearing loss, causes the brain to create its own sound, which manifests as the symptoms of tinnitus.
There isn’t currently a cure for most types of tinnitus but there are management strategies that can minimize your symptoms and reduce the impact tinnitus has on your daily life, such as:
1. Retraining Therapy
Tinnitus retraining therapy helps to change the way you think about the condition. By learning how to tune the sounds of tinnitus out, you can learn to ignore or overlook them. As a result, tinnitus begins to have much less impact and no longer prevents you from fully engaging with the world around you.
2. Sound Therapy
Many people use sound therapy as part of their tinnitus retraining program, but it can also be used in isolation. The presence of genuine sounds can help to block out the sounds created by tinnitus, making it easier to ignore them. This is one of the reasons that people with tinnitus often prefer to have some background noise present, rather than being in total silence.
3. Hearing Aids
If your tinnitus is associated with a loss of hearing function, hearing aids can be a fantastic way to manage your symptoms. For some people, restoring their hearing function with the use of hearing devices means the brain no longer needs to create its own noise, leading to a decrease in tinnitus symptoms. About 60% of patients with hearing loss and tinnitus notice a reduction in their tinnitus severity with the use of hearing aids.
Additionally, many hearing aids now feature tinnitus masking settings. By augmenting external sounds, tinnitus masking features can make the internal sounds far less noticeable. Furthermore, improved hearing function makes it easier to focus on other things, such as conversations or music, which can help to distract you from the symptoms of tinnitus.
What To Do If You Suspect You Have Tinnitus
The most common symptoms of tinnitus include buzzing, ringing, roaring, clicking, hissing, and humming sounds in one or both ears. These sounds may be present at all times or they may come and go. If you think you might be developing tinnitus, it’s important to consult your audiologist as soon as possible. By doing so, you can access effective symptom management techniques and devices.
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