Tinnitus is a sound heard in your head, rather than existing outside in your environment. It may be a ringing, buzzing, or hissing sound, coming from both ears or just one ear. It is not considered a disease, but a condition that can result from a wide range of underlying causes. It is advisable to speak to your GP if you experience any of the following:
• You hear a pulsatile sound which is like a heart beat
• The tinnitus is very pronounced in one ear only
• The tinnitus is very distressing and it is causing a lack of sleep
Tinnitus can be described as many different sounds and it can range from pure tones to more complex sounds and even musical notes. It is subjective, but it is most often described as one the the following
Why do we experience Tinnitus?
The ear is a conveyor belt for sound, taking all the information that enters our ears up to the brain to be analysed. Sound helps us to know where we are and what is going on around us. Our brain wants to hear as much as it can in order to make sense of the world around us.
If there is a fault with this conveyor belt, our brain may not be getting all the information it needs so it tries harder to listen out for sounds that may be important. This additional information manifests itself as tinnitus.
How common is Tinnitus?
It is estimated that around 5 million people in the UK are affected by tinnitus. Many people experience temporary tinnitus following exposure to loud noise, for example at a music concert or when working with machinery. This normally manifests itself as a high pitched tone which lasts for a couple of hours.
Sometimes tinnitus is a symptom of an illness, disorder, or a side effect of medication. It is important to notify your GP or Audiologist of any changes to your tinnitus, especially if it occurs after a change in your medication.
What causes Tinnitus?
There are different theories as to what exactly causes tinnitus and research is ongoing. Stress, tiredness and anxiety can increase the severity. Tinnitus does not cause hearing loss, but can be a side effect of reduced hearing.
Tinnitus can be linked to multiple factors ranging from physiological to psychological including:
• Hearing loss
• Some ear conditions and diseases
• Noise exposure
• Fluid behind the ear drum (often presents with “clicking” tinnitus)
• Ear infections/viral infections
• Ear, head or neck injuries
• Some medication
• Emotional stress
What treatment is available?
Hearing aids can help with tinnitus management by compensating for the hearing loss or amplifying environmental sounds to distract from the tinnitus.
Most people notice their tinnitus more in quiet settings. The aim of sound therapy is to mask or distract from the distressing tinnitus sounds and provide some control. Sound generators and relaxation devices emit sounds similar to the tinnitus or relaxing sounds such as the sound of the sea.
TINNITUS RETRAINING THERAPY (TRT)
This encourages patients to get used to tinnitus so that it becomes less noticeable.
COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY (CBT)
The aim of CBT is to help the sufferer gain a sense of control over their symptoms by altering thought patterns. This is delivered in sessions with a hearing therapist or specialist audiologist.
THIS TINNITUS WORKBOOK
The Tinnitus Workbook looks at ways of helping to manage your tinnitus exploring different techniques and ideas.
View our Tinnitus Workbook here.