Tinnitus is a physical condition, experienced as noises or ringing in the ears or head, when no such external physical noise is present. It is often described as a buzzing, whistling, roaring, or humming sound.
Approximately 17 to 20 per cent of Australians suffer from some degree of tinnitus, varying from mild to severe. The percentage of people who are severely affected is small. It is common for tinnitus to fluctuate with stress or tiredness.
Tinnitus is not a disease in itself. It is a symptom of a fault in the auditory (hearing) system, which includes the ears and the brain.
Common causes of tinnitus are:
- Exposure to loud sounds
- Extreme stress or trauma
- Degeneration (‘wear and tear’) of the small bones in the middle ear, behind the eardrum
- Ear problems, such as otosclerosis (fixation of the small bones in the middle ear)
- Meniere's disease (increased fluid in the inner ear)
- Some prescription and non-prescription drugs.
Tinnitus can be extremely debilitating, affecting peoples’ ability to work or cope with normal life activities. People with tinnitus may suffer from extreme distress, depression, anxiety, frustration and sleep problems.
There are ways Edgecliff Hearing audiologists can help you to successfully manage your tinnitus to the point where it is no longer a debilitating problem.
In the presence of a hearing loss, high quality and properly fitting hearing aids can reduce your perception of tinnitus by improving your hearing and reducing the strain of listening.
Neuromonics treatment is recommended when your tinnitus is not associated with a hearing loss, or if hearing aids are not suitable. Neuromonics is a desensitisation device that is worn at a low volume level for 2-3 hours a day for six months.
These are hearing aid type devices, which generate a sound to mask the sound of the tinnitus.
If you think you have symptoms of tinnitus, it is important to consult your doctor, an audiologist (hearing scientist) and an ear specialist doctor. They will be able to establish whether there is any underlying treatable cause of tinnitus.
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