Tinnitus is a condition whereby you 'hear' sounds that have no external source; the noises may be heard in one ear, both ears, in the middle of the head or it might not be possible to pinpoint the exact location of the sound. Sufferers generally hear a variety of noises, including buzzing, whistling, humming and hissing. The noises can be high, medium or low-pitched, and may be intermittent or continuous. It is usually a temporary problem. However, some people suffer from it frequently or even constantly.
Tinnitus is most common in adults over the age of 65, although it can affect anyone. It is prevalent in people who work in a very noisy environment, such as a nightclub or construction site. Most people experience short, temporary bouts of tinnitus at some point in their lives – often after attending a music concert or nightclub.
Tinnitus is also associated with hearing impairment or loss, and it can make you more sensitive to certain noises. It is not usually a sign of a serious underlying problem, and for many people it is only a minor annoyance. However, for others it can have a devastating impact on daily life. Despite this, there is a perception that there is nothing you can do to alleviate tinnitus. However, there are treatments and therapies available that can greatly help to manage the condition. Therefore, if you are suffering from tinnitus, it may help to consult a doctor or an ENT specialist such as myself.
What causes tinnitus?
No one knows the exact cause of tinnitus, but it usually occurs either in conjunction with, or as a consequence of, other ear problems. It often coincides with a degree of hearing loss, although the direction of causation is unclear.
Conditions associated with tinnitus include: ear infections; Meniere's disease; a build-up of ear wax; damage to the inner ear and age-related hearing loss.
What are the treatments for tinnitus?
There is no single cure for tinnitus. An ENT expert can assess the possible cause of your tinnitus, and then devise a suitable treatment plan to help you manage the condition.
If your tinnitus is caused by a build-up of ear wax, this can be resolved by dissolving the ear wax using ear drops, or by removing it with a syringe or suction.
Popular treatments for persistent tinnitus include:
· self-help measures, such as relaxation techniques
· counselling - to help you cope with the symptoms
· sound therapy - listening to sounds that distract you from the tinnitus
· tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) - this aims to help you to train your brain to respond to tinnitus differently. The hope is that you will learn to tune out the sound and reduce its impact.
In order to prevent tinnitus, it is advisable to limit your exposure to loud noises.
If you are concerned that you are suffering from tinnitus and think it may be linked to an underlying problem with your ears, please get in touch. I will try to ascertain the cause and will suggest a treatment plan to suit your needs.