Tinnitus: Causes and Solution

Tinnitus is a form of hearing impairment and its main symptom is ringing in the ears. It may fade in and out a little, but is constant and in severe cases can become very stressful, frustrating and make it difficult to concentrate on - or hear - what's happening in life.

Tinnitus noises can range from clicks to crackles and even whistling. One of the most uncomfortable times for sufferers is at night when things quiet down and the sound seems louder. This condition will also mean that general hearing quality is reduced and many sounds may seem distorted. Tinnitus is a relatively common condition that will affect around 18% of Australians at some point in their lives.

How is tinnitus caused?

Tinnitus is a symptom of an underlying condition. Causes can include:

  • Exposure to loud sounds
  • Noise-induced hearing loss
  • A build up of wax against the eardrum
  • Excessive fluid in the inner ear
  • Head or neck injuries
  • Ear-bone changes (otosclerosis)
  • A tumour on the hearing nerve
  • Taking certain ototoxic medications
  • A jaw joint problem, such as TM

By far the most common cause of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises, especially over a long period of time. Musicians and people who work in noisy environments with no ear protection experience tinnitus at a higher rate than most.

People with hearing loss often experience tinnitus but many people with perfect hearing also have the condition.

How can tinnitus be prevented?

Ringing in the ears can be prevented by wearing ear plugs. There are many different designs that are suited to all kinds of professions. For example a music dj may use a certain kind that does not block out sounds but simply limited the volume that they are hearing. Construction workers will need more robust plugs that can block out excessive loud noises from machinery used.

What can current suffers of tinnitus do to help their condition?

While there is currently no cure for tinnitus, clinical research is constantly being conducted to try and find one.

Studies have indicated that tinnitus disappears completely or at least diminishes over time in the majority of cases. This occurs as the brain loses interest in the sound and stops surveying the signal – a process known as ‘habituation’. The amount of time this process takes varies from person to person, but it does happen eventually in most cases.

There are also certain lifestyle changes you can make to help you cope with tinnitus. For example, avoiding stress, coffee or alcohol has been proven to reduce the severity of tinnitus

The best proven remedy to this problem is to have hearing aids fitted. Although the tinnitus cannot be completely cured, it can be managed. Hearing aids work by balancing the sounds of everyday life like conversations and music which causes the constant ringing to be muffled. In fact, a suggests that patients with chronic tinnitus can experience great relief when fitted with thehearing device. Lyric is a device that can be worn for months at a time and does not need to be removed when sleeping (when tinnitus is said to be most bothersome).

You can visit your local hearing specialist to get an accurate tinnitus diagnosis and fitting of these devices.