Hearing & Hearing Loss
Tinnitus – that ringing sound in your ear
Tinnitus is a medical condition that causes someone to perceive or “hear” sound that is not present in the environment around them. Although it is most often described as “ringing in the ears”, it could actually be any type of sound, including whooshing, hissing, chirping or whistling, Tinnitus is very common with 15% of the population experiencing it. For some it can be an occasional annoyance, for others it can be a constant frustration.
In severe cases, tinnitus can cause difficulty in concentrating and sleeping, hence interfering with work and personal relationships and eventually psychological distress. Those who struggle with tinnitus find it hard to explain their experiences to others such as family and friends. This can cause social and emotional changes such as depression, loneliness and anger which can affect your quality of life.
Causes of Tinnitus
The precise cause of tinnitus is not yet fully understood. However, the most common cause of tinnitus is damaged and/or loss of the tiny sensory hair cells found in the inner ear. This damage typically occurs as a result of the normal ageing process and/or from prolonged exposure to excessively loud noise. Tinnitus and hearing loss is found to have a high correlation, with 80% of people with tinnitus also having hearing loss. However, tinnitus will not cause hearing loss or reduce your hearing level.
There is not one specific trigger for tinnitus. In many cases, tinnitus is linked to events or conditions unrelated to hearing. For example, stress, illness, diet and medications. Do consult your doctor if you are unsure whether your medication causes tinnitus.
How can Tinnitus be prevented?
Ringing in the ears can be prevented by wearing ear protection in situations where there is exposure to excessively loud noise.
Can Tinnitus be treated?
There is no proven treatment to help tinnitus, however, it is possible to make the condition less intrusive and less distressing. While tinnitus will not disappear, it is possible to mask the sound or to reduce your awareness of the tinnitus sound through various treatment options. An effective treatment is to have hearing aids fitted as they increase the sound stimulation, helping you to hear better and to help distract the brain from the perceived sounds of tinnitus. Other options include Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) and counselling.
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