- 15-20% of the general population have experienced tinnitus
- 80% of tinnitus patients have some evidence of hearing loss
- More than 70% of hearing impaired individuals have had tinnitus
- Only 10-25% of tinnitus sufferers seek medical attention
Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ears or head which is generally unable to be heard by another individual. This is often perceived as a ringing, buzzing, hissing sound and can be described as “crickets chirping inside my head.” In some cases a type of tinnitus can be heard externally and examination of head and/or neck and middle ear is required.
An important fact to note is the tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease due to an underlying cause. Determining the nature and identifying a cause is fundamentally important in achieving a successful outcome with tinnitus management, coupled with appropriate information, counselling and oftentimes specialists devices.
Ongoing research is still determining the exact cause for tinnitus and the mechanism associated with this. There is general agreement that this is commonly associated with triggers such as:
A single explosive sound or repeated noise injury over a period of time leading to damage or dysfunction.
Hearing loss is a well known cause for tinnitus and is often experienced by hearing impaired individuals.
Head and Neck Injury
Head injury related to trauma following an accident. Jaw injury also has a high correlation with tinnitus.
Disease including cardiovascular and blood pressure and diabetes which appear to be not directly linked to the hearing system have an increased risk of tinnitus. Severe colds, flu and sinus conditions are also contributing factors.
Medications and side effects
Common prescription medications often list tinnitus as side effects and include Aspirin, antibiotics, antidepressants and chemotherapy drugs.
Stress, anxiety, fatigue and depression are highly correlated with increased awareness of tinnitus and negative emotions which further perpetuate the awareness of tinnitus.
Lifestyle and diet
Dietary considerations which can further antagonise tinnitus may include alcohol consumption, sodium or types of meat.
Whilst is it true that there is currently no single cure for tinnitus, there are proven treatments that are effective in managing tinnitus.
Information and counselling
Information is king and better understanding your tinnitus, determining a cause and structuring some management is proven to be an effective treatment.
Many types of sound therapy exists to provide relief from tinnitus using sounds to distract or mask it. These include types of noise, music and relaxing environmental sounds such as ocean sounds, waves and rain to help reduce the annoyance of tinnitus.
It is well documented that hearing loss and tinnitus are highly correlated. By correcting the hearing loss with hearing devices and providing stimulation to the auditory system the tinnitus appears to reduce. This suppression is in part due to an increased awareness of environmental sounds caused by the amplification. Modern hearing devices can include a combination of amplification and tinnitus sounds which work effectively together for tinnitus management.
Referrals to co-related services
Referrals to health professionals include Ear Nose and Throat Surgeons for medical attention to improve tinnitus, Psychologists for counselling and support, Physiotherapists for head and neck strain and others.
Effective tinnitus treatment almost always requires a combination of the above mentioned treatments and an individual care plan is required to improve a successful outcome.