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What Is Tinnitus, & How To Cope With It

Tinnitus is a very common condition that leaves the sufferer with a ‘ringing’ in the ears and this can become a constant implication to many people's lifestyles.

In this blog post, we explore:

  • What is tinnitus?
  • What causes tinnitus?
  • Can tinnitus be cured?
  • How to manage tinnitus

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is especially common when some degree of hearing loss is already present. In many cases, the ringing, hissing, buzzing sounds that occur are not audible for other people, cannot be controlled, come and go with different levels of intensity and may appear in one or both ears.

Usually associated with hearing loss, tinnitus can occur after a prolonged or abrupt exposure to extra loud noise and it has the potential to affect anyone of any age. Tinnitus can fade away, but in other situations it becomes permanent and the sufferer must find a way to cope.

Tinnitus can occur in different parts of the ear and does not come from external sound sources. It can be extremely uncomfortable for the sufferer depending on its continuity and severity. Tinnitus is not a disease but can indicate various underlying health conditions.

Tinnitus can be subjective (nonpulsatile) or objective (pulsatile).

Subjective tinnitus

The subjective tinnitus is heard only by the individual and is commonly caused by damage in the outer, middle or inner ear or problems with the auditory nerves responsible for sending sound signals to the brain. Impairment of the hearing nerve may lead to mistakes in the brain interpretation of sounds and thus cause tinnitus.

Objective tinnitus

Objective tinnitus can be heard by an audiologist during an exam and is most commonly attributed to blood vessel problems or inner muscle contractions.

What causes tinnitus?

Having answered what is tinnitus? we can look at its causes. Tinnitus can be caused by a number of factors and a healthcare specialist could be able to help isolate the origins of your tinnitus.

It is most commonly associated with noise-induced hearing loss. It can also be caused by earwax congestion, otosclerosis, high blood pressure, use of certain medications, and exposure to extra loud noises.

Having a hectic and strenuous lifestyle can also trigger the condition. If the constant background noise is an immutable part of the sufferer’s life, it causes a great deal of stress and can even result in severe anxiety and depression. There are various underlying medical conditions that could lead to ringing in the ears and treating them may eventually cease it.

Common causes of tinnitus:

Different causes, such as those below, can impact the type of tinnitus the sufferer has.

  • Age related hearing loss
  • Ear infections
  • Earwax congestion in one or both ears
  • Continuous or abrupt loud noises, such as listening to extra loud noises or working in a place with exceptional noise levels
  • Head trauma
  • Health problems: Otosclerosis, Acoustic Neuroma, Arteriovenous malformations, high blood pressure as well as head or neck injuries, including problems with the Temporomandibular Joint
  • Neurologic or metabolic disorders
  • Some medications, including antibiotics such as gentamicin, chloramphenicol, bleomycin, cancer or quinine drugs, diuretics, and even a high dosage of aspirin
  • Excessive use of alcohol and caffeine

The cause of objective tinnitus is usually muscle spasms or increased blood pressure around the ears, neck or face. These contractions or pulses can be heard by the ear and perceived as a crackling or clicking sound. They can be alleviated if the underlying condition is improved with a treatment.

Subjective tinnitus is connected to damage to the nerves responsible for hearing. The same nerve damage could lead to hearing loss as well. It usually occurs after a prolonged exposure to loud noises or it could be a side effect of certain medications such as aspirin, quinidine or other antibiotics.

However, in many cases, the single source of the ringing is not found and can remain unknown to the sufferer.

Can tinnitus be cured?

There is no official medication that can cure tinnitus.

Research continues in this field in order to find refined and sure ways of curing tinnitus. But, we do have an exceptional range of tinnitus aids that could be of great use to help combat the condition.

To find the best treatment or management of the condition, you should turn to a specialist to determine the type of tinnitus and the possible causes for it.

One way to treat tinnitus is to find its cause or if another medical condition is the root. Depending on the exact condition, noise suppression and use of hearing aids can also help as well as changing current medications.

In the case where the sufferer also experiences a level of hearing loss, the use of hearing aids that provide an option allowing suppressing of noise can provide relief. If the underlying condition cannot be treated or determined, the use of tinnitus maskers may be of some assistance. These devices produce low-level white noise or natural sounds in order to reduce the perception of tinnitus and “mask” the condition.

There is not a specific cure for tinnitus as every person’s complaints and severity are different. In many cases, tinnitus appears and then subsides and cannot be helped with medical treatment. However, some methods are used to manage the condition.

A popular method recommended by specialists is the use of noise creating devices that will “hide” the ringing sound and replace it with pleasant sounds, such as the ocean, or soft programmed music targeted to mask particular frequencies of the individual tinnitus sounds.

How can we help?

Hearing Direct offers different types of medically tested devices that can be of a great benefit to tinnitus sufferers including:

The Sound Oasis Bedside Tinnitus Sound Generator provides another 5 different types of sounds, featuring ocean surf. It also includes helpful features, such as a timer, digital time display and alarm clock, which make it particularly convenient for use during the night. It is also possible to purchase Sound Oasis Additional Sound Cards, and explore a wider range of sound options.

We stock the Audimed 22MA BTE White Noise Generator and this tinnitus device fits comfortably behind the ear (BTE), using a thin tubing to direct the wide-band sound into the ear. It incorporates tone and volume control switches and operates from a size 312 battery with a maximum volume level of the generated noise is up to 60dB.

We have a therapy ball that could be of great use! The Tinnitus Relaxation Therapy Ball gives the possibility to choose between 6 of the most appealing sounds in nature, such as raindrops, ocean waves, and bird songs, as well as the standard white noise. It features a convenient timer that can be set for up to 30 minutes and has superb volume control.

Or try our Tinnitus Relief Sound Pillow. This pillow is as comfortable as a normal pillow but has an additional component - stereo speakers that can be connected to an external sound generator. It is convenient and efficient to use it with the Sound Oasis Sound Generator, in order to provide tinnitus relief during the night.

Living with tinnitus

Perception is also an important part of accepting and living with tinnitus. Many counseling programmes are aimed to explain and help sufferers understand their condition and focus less on the sounds they hear inside their ears while providing them with emotional support.

Alternative medicine has also offered some solutions to help the condition of tinnitus. These include aromatherapy, acupuncture, magnet therapy, yoga, meditation, massages amongst others. Herbs connected to alleviating the condition are hawthorn, black cohosh, and ginkgo biloba. Although some people report a decrease of tinnitus and improvement, studies are indecisive as to how beneficial these methods are and if they are actually helpful.

Living with tinnitus is challenging and scientists are actively looking for ways to alleviate the condition and find a cure. One option scientists are currently investigating is retraining (or rebooting) the brain in such a way that it stops recognizing errant signals from the damaged hearing nerves.

Another area of research is focused on developing drugs that will “tone down” overactive neurons. It is believed that studying the mechanism of interaction between the hearing cells and the potassium channels will lead to new insights as to how to treat the condition.

How to manage tinnitus

To manage tinnitus, it is very important to know what it is and what the possible causes may be as well as what underlying health problems may be impacting the tinnitus. In most situations, ringing in the ears is not a sign of a serious medical issue but still, people should consider addressing the problem and consult with a health professional to make sure they have the correct diagnosis.

Tinnitus, like any other health problem, has a significant impact on the sufferer’s lifestyle. It can lead to stress, anxiety, insomnia, problems with concentrating and memory. However, tinnitus has the potential ability to improve gradually over time and treatment may no longer be required.

One way to cope with tinnitus is to treat the problems that could be connected to it or change existing medication with another, where side effects are not known to affect hearing.

There are several solutions, however, that some people implement to ease the discomfort and lessen the influence of these unpleasant sounds in everyday life:

  • Focus on the external sounds and not the sounds in the ears
  • Avoid situations that aggravate the condition such as noisy places, smoking and drinking alcohol
  • Minimizing stress levels
  • Trying alternative methods such as Ginkgo Biloba intake, acupuncture, sound therapy or even hypnosis
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Tinnitus Retraining Therapy: Both involve retraining the brain and its responses to tinnitus
  • A change in the daily routine and diet can also be helpful.

If there is hearing loss present, wearing hearing aids may alleviate the condition.


 

If you believe you may be suffering from tinnitus is is best to consult your GP or a healthcare professional.

If you have any issues or queries please do contact us and our expert team will do their best to assist you.

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