Tinnitus is a hearing condition where people hear noises, hisses or hums that have no external source – this unreal sensation is often described as a ‘ringing in the ears,’ which can either be low or high-pitched. The ever present background sensation of sound created by the condition can lead to stress and anxiety, especially at times when individuals require low-noise environments to relax or sleep.
It can be intermittent or continuous and can occur in one or both ears and is often most noticeable in quiet listening environments. In rare cases, the sound sensations produced by the condition can be in sync with an individual’s heartbeat. When this occurs, it is known as Pulsatile Tinnitus. 17 to 20 per cent of Australians have some form that ranges from mild to severe.
Causes of Tinnitus
Sudden or prolonged exposure to loud sounds is the most common cause with most suffers having some form of associated Noise-induced Hearing Loss.
It can also be the symptom of other underlying hearing conditions, such as Meniere’s Disease and Hyperacusis or hearing injuries and has been linked to taking certain medications and the presence of other medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
If you think you have Tinnitus, make an appointment to have a hearing test with an audiologist to see what treatment options are available to help you manage the condition. Common treatments to minimise its effects include:
- Cognitive Behavioural, Acceptance & Commitment and Mindfulness-based Cognitive therapies to reduce any associated stress and anxiety;
- Changing diet to remove substances such as caffeine and alcohol known to indirectly aggravate the condition;
- Hearing aids can be used to help manage the hearing loss sometimes associated with Tinnitus and provide relief from tinnitus symptoms;
- Therapeutic noise generators to help change how the brain perceives the condition; and
- Retraining therapy can provide a range of environment sounds to mask Tinnitus.