What Is Tinnitus?

Contrary to popular belief, tinnitus is not a disease. Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying problem with your auditory system. Individuals with tinnitus experience a persistent ringing, pulsating, or buzzing noise without an external source.

Tinnitus Causes

Tinnitus is often caused by noise-induced hearing loss, which can occur due to long-term exposure to loud noises at work, concerts, etc. Exposure to impulse noise, a sound characterised by a sharp increase in decibel volume, can also cause hearing loss. Standing too close to fireworks or firecrackers is a notable example of this.
Several medical conditions can cause tinnitus as well, including:  

Tinnitus Prevention

Preventing tinnitus largely comes down to managing your overall hearing health. Protecting your ears from excessive noise exposure is key. That means wearing hearing protection when attending concerts, watching fireworks, and operating loud machinery.

You should also listen to music at a reasonable volume and limit/quit nicotine. Visiting a hearing specialist annually to gain insights about the state of your hearing can also be beneficial, especially if you're 55+ or have immediate concerns about your hearing.

Managing Tinnitus

There is no cure for tinnitus. Tinnitus may go away if the underlying condition causing it is treated, but this isn't a possibility for those with hearing loss-related tinnitus. Thankfully, there are ways to manage tinnitus so it is less disruptive to your quality of life. This includes:
  • Avoiding silence
  • Relaxation
  • An active lifestyle/hobbies
Hearing aids can also help tinnitus sufferers (hearing loss-related tinnitus). By amplifying external sounds, hearing aids can lessen your awareness of your tinnitus.

Common Tinnitus Misconceptions

Unfortunately, there are several misconceptions about tinnitus that can cause harm to both sufferers and non-sufferers. Here are a few of the most common ones:
  • Tinnitus is always a ringing noise: Many people with tinnitus perceive a ringing noise, but plenty of others experience buzzing, clicking, dial tones, hissing, pulsating, and screeching.
  • Hearing aids worsen tinnitus: Hearing aids don't worsen or cause tinnitus. As explained above, hearing aids can actually help people manage their tinnitus.
  • There is no way to treat tinnitus: There may not be a cure, but there are multiple ways to treat tinnitus. This includes hearing aids, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, and addressing the underlying condition causing your tinnitus.
  • Tinnitus isn't real: Misinformation about tinnitus can lead to negative misconceptions like this one. Tinnitus isn't a visible ailment, so it's sometimes unfairly minimised. Tinnitus is very real and experienced by millions around the world.

Resources for People With Tinnitus

You can learn more about tinnitus by contacting a Connect Hearing specialist. Other great resources include Tinnitus Australia and books like Glenn Schweitzer's Rewiring Tinnitus. There are also many podcasts about tinnitus that cover personal stories, tinnitus management, scientific studies, and more.