Tinnitus is a common hearing impairment, which creates the perception of sound without an external source. While the most common way to describe this noise is as a ringing in the ears — usually a high pitched ringing in the ears — it can sound differently to each person, such as a humming, buzzing, clicking or roaring noise. Tinnitus can be present in one or both ears, it can come and go at times, be loud or quiet, and in some extreme cases, it can be constant and loud enough to distract you and block out external sounds. It’s also a lot more common than you might think, as up to 20% of Australians are thought to suffer from mild to severe tinnitus.
There is no clear cause of tinnitus, however it is most commonly associated with exposure to loud sounds for prolonged periods, such as loud music or construction noise. People who work regularly with live music or in construction, might be more at risk of developing tinnitus if the proper hearing protection is not worn. Tinnitus can also come from ear infections and other ear problems such as earwax blockage, trauma to the head or even from a small insect living in the ear.
The majority of people suffering from tinnitus are able to lead normal lives, however for those with severe cases, it can be debilitating to live with. People suffering from tinnitus will often notice it more when trying to get to sleep as it is quieter and there aren’t enough external sounds to distract from the ringing sound caused by tinnitus. In the more severe cases of tinnitus, the loudness of the tinnitus sound at night might cause sleep problems.
Tinnitus isn’t a disorder itself, but a result of hearing loss. While the majority of people with tinnitus can hear normally, it can create temporary or permanent hearing loss in some people. Because tinnitus is generally linked with hearing loss, it doesn’t mean that you will automatically lose your hearing. If you’re concerned, you should see a doctor or ear specialist, or book an appointment for a hearing test.
It’s important to remember that tinnitus is a normal occurrence and there is no cure, just as there is no cure for hearing loss — but there are ways of managing it. For the majority of people with tinnitus, they are usually able to go on with day to day activities with little to no disruption. But for those with more severe cases, there are a few different ways of managing it.
If your tinnitus is severe enough to affect your day to day life, you should look into different tinnitus treatments. While you can’t remove tinnitus, the managing techniques should help you reduce how much it bothers you. The first step is to ensure you protect your hearing in environments that could make it worse, such as live music concerts and during construction work. Always use hearing protection, such as ear plugs, when in these loud environments — but remove them once you’re in a quieter environment. Tinnitus sound therapy can be useful when you’re trying to sleep. Playing some background noise, such as ocean or rain sounds, can help to create enough environmental noise to help distract you from the ringing in your ears. There are many noise generators available, so you should research the options to find what suits your needs. There are also different management techniques and exercises to help reduce the impact that tinnitus has on you. Some sufferers of tinnitus find their mental wellbeing can be impacted as they can experience sleep loss, stress and even depression. Visit an audiologist for more advice on how you can manage your tinnitus as they could have some management techniques to help you. You may also need to see a counselor who can help you to manage any stress and anxiety brought on by your tinnitus. Once you’ve adapted to your tinnitus and have some effective managing techniques in place, you’ll find it’s easy to ignore and get on with your life.
For people with severe tinnitus, or those who already suffer from hearing loss, a hearing aid can make a big impact in reducing the severity of tinnitus. Because tinnitus is often worse when it’s quiet or you’re unable to focus on external sounds, a hearing aid helps by improving your overall hearing, therefore enabling you to hear external sounds easier. A hearing aid will also remove the need for you to strain to hear noises.
It’s important to remember that if your tinnitus is really bothering you and if it’s having a serious impact on your life, see your doctor or an audiologist as soon as possible. They will be able to help you with the next steps and find a solution that will work for you. It’s also important to remember that tinnitus is a common problem and you are not alone. For more information and to book in for a tinnitus diagnosis, make an appointment with a hearing specialist today.
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