Do I have tinnitus?
Is there noise in your ears? In your head? Ringing? Buzzing? Whooshing? Hissing? These sounds are all commonly referred to as tinnitus. A leading company which works with this phenomenon estimates that around 250 million people worldwide experience this problem! You may be wondering…what exactly is this sound in your head? Tinnitus is the perception of sound with no external sound source. If you can’t quite recall if you have ever experienced this, think back to a time you attended a loud concert or event. Did you feel your ears were ringing after you left? Were they still ringing the next day? This is called tinnitus. Some people have it temporarily after one particular loud event or some experience it regularly on and off. Some individuals experience constant tinnitus – their ears are always ringing!
Why do I have tinnitus?
The ringing or buzzing sounds you hear can be related to many causes or activities, including exposure to loud sounds and subsequent inner ear damage, certain groups of medication, drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, consuming caffeine, high blood pressure, stress, lack of sleep, increased sodium (salt) intake. It is important to know not everyone who partakes in these activities will experience tinnitus, and everyone who experiences tinnitus, may not necessarily partake in the above activities.
If I have tinnitus does that mean I have hearing loss?
Back to our example at the beginning of the loud concert, the ringing you might experience after an event is a sign that the sound was too loud, unsafe, and you would benefit from wearing earplugs next time. Repeating this activity can lead to permanent damage of the inner ear, also known as sensorineural hearing loss. Often hearing loss and the ringing or hissing sounds go hand in hand; therefore, when a patient books an appointment to address these issues at The Hearing Room, an audiologist will always do a full audiological assessment (hearing test).
What can I do about my tinnitus?
Those who experience hissing or ringing sounds in their ears, often report the sounds are the most noticeable when they are in a quiet environment, as there is no other environmental noise to distract them. There is no magic cure for tinnitus, or pill that will take it away; however we work with our patients with the goal for them to become less bothered by their tinnitus to reduce the negative impact on their lives. When hearing loss is present, the best way to help the ringing or buzzing sounds become less obvious is to treat the hearing loss by wearing properly fit amplification, or hearing aids. This allows the patient to hear more sounds around them, creating a more rich and full soundscape. Properly fit hearing aids means less time in quiet, which means less time to focus on the ringing! A common time when the ringing or hissing sounds are the ‘the loudest’ is right before you fall asleep at night. Playing some soft background music, or turning on a fan may be helpful to give you another sound to listen to as you fall asleep. Certain types of tinnitus require a full audiological assessment as well as a referral to an ear specialist (ENT or Otolaryngologist).