While Tinnitus is a fairly common problem, and while there is no cure, there are several effective methods to reduce the impact. Since Tinnitus is a symptom of a problem, the first thing you should do, is to try to find out the underlying cause.
You should have a medical examination with special attention given to checking factors associated with Tinnitus. A full hearing evaluation can identify hearing loss that may be associated with the Tinnitus.
Tinnitus can be associated with conditions that occur at all levels of the Auditory System. The Tinnitus Management Service provides a dedicated team who are able to advise, support, and counsel anyone experiencing buzzing, ringing, or hissing in the ears.
Some of these conditions are:
- Impacted wax (external ear)
- Ear infection
- Middle ear tumors
- Vascular problems (circulation disorders)
- Ménière’s disease
- Ototoxic medications (more than 200 medicines can cause tinnitus)
- Noise-induced hearing loss (inner ear)
- At the central level—the eighth cranial (auditory) nerve
The experience of tinnitus occurs as a result of activity in the brain which we detect as noise. It’s thought that damage to the hair cells which mechanically detect sound, means that there are reduced electrical signs sent from the ear to the brain. The brain may misinterpret these reduced signals, and the result is, we hear a ‘nonsense’ noise which is tinnitus.
Tinnitus can be distressing; it can impact on our sleep and make us feel distracted or anxious. We meet many people who are (unhelpfully) told that ‘nothing can be done’, or that ‘you have to learn to live with it’, when much can be done to help.
What can you do to help yourself if you have tinnitus?
Try to reduce the amount of salt in your diet. Salt can raise your blood pressure, and high blood pressure can trigger tinnitus. Nicotine and caffeine, which also have an adverse effect on your blood pressure, may worsen tinnitus symptoms too.
Certain medications can exacerbate tinnitus, including diuretics (e.g. furosemide), methotrexate, antibiotics such as erythromycin, and some forms of antidepressant.
Avoiding exposure to loud noise. Over time, loud noise can damage the nerves in the ears, so make sure you use hearing protection if you are working in a noisy environment. Keep sound levels low when listening to music.
How can we help?
Wearing a hearing aid can be very helpful in alleviating tinnitus symptoms. Tinnitus is often accompanied by a hearing loss, so as well as helping you to hear better, the hearing aid’s action of sound amplification also teaches the brain to focus on sounds you want to be hearing, instead of the tinnitus noise.
Hearing aids can be programmed to compete with the frequency range of your tinnitus (a ‘white noise’ effect)