Tinnitus

The ringing in your ears

Tinnitus

The constant companion

Let’s start by defining tinnitus — ‘the perception of sound in the absence of external sound’. What this basically means is that sounds, like ringing in the ears, whistling or buzzing, can only be heard by the person affected.

An estimated 10-15% of a population has tinnitus but most cases go untreated. This is due to a lack of information and the fact that most people are unaware of who will understand and assist them. While some cases are minor, some require more specific treatment to overcome possible long term effects. These may vary from sleep disorders and trouble focusing to stress or becoming socially reclusive.

What is tinnitus?

Let’s start by defining tinnitus — ‘the perception of sound in the absence of external sound’.1 This basically means that sounds, like ringing in the ears, whistling or buzzing, can only be heard by the person affected.

An estimated 10-15% of a population has tinnitus2 but many cases go untreated. This is due to a lack of information and the fact that most people are unaware of who will understand and assist them. While some cases are minor, some require more specific treatment to overcome possible long-term effects. These may vary from sleep disorders and trouble focusing to stress or becoming socially reclusive.3

Tinnitus Symptoms

Tinnitus is often described as a ringing sound in the ears, but it can also come across as a buzzing, humming or hissing sound or just as general noise in the ears. The sound can be constant or intermittent and it can appear to come from one ear or both.

Types of Tinnitus

Although Tinnitus is usually only heard by the affected person there are rare cases where the sound can be observed externally. This type of Tinnitus is called “objective tinnitus”4 - in contrast to the more common “subjective tinnitus” where only the affected person hears the sounds.

Tinnitus can be further distinguished by characteristics of the perceived sound:

Tonal Tinnitus vs. non-tonal tinnitus

Tonal tinnitus refers to a, more or less, continuous sound with specific frequencies whereas non-tonal tinnitus takes the form of hissing or clicking sounds-

Pulsatile Tinnitus

Tinnitus that pulsates - often in sync with the affected person’s heartbeat.

Musical Tinnitus

Also known as “Musical Ear Syndrome”. A form of tinnitus where the sound takes the form of a constantly looping tune.

Tinnitus causes5

One of the most common causes of tinnitus is damage to the hair cells in the inner ear – either from exposure to noise or age-related. Since these hair cells are responsible for a person's hearing tinnitus often coincides with hearing loss.

Other common causes of tinnitus include:

  • ear infections (e.g. otitis media)
  • inner ear conditions (e.g. Meniere’s disease)     
  • side effects from medicine (e.g. antibiotics)
  • earwax blockage
  • injuries
  • blood vessel disorders

Tinnitus relief

Remedies for tinnitus

While millions of people experience the distress of tinnitus, few are aware of the various methods that can help them manage the tinnitus to reduce the annoyance. Although there is no cure for tinnitus, you’ll be relieved to know that there are various effective forms of counseling and management techniques available.

Sound Therapy

Sound therapy aims to reduce awareness of the tinnitus by providing sounds for the ears that actively mask and/or divert attention away from it. Over time the brain will be retrained to ignore the tinnitus as the lack of attention allows the brain to reclassify it as irrelevant and blend it into the background.

Learn more about Sound Therapy

Hearing aids for Tinnitus

If tinnitus coincides with hearing loss it is often beneficial to improve the general hearing to reduce the awareness of the ringing in your ears. Phonak hearing aids also offer additional support for people with tinnitus by providing sounds that can be used for sound therapy.

Other factors

  • Evaluate your medication: Some drugs can have a negative impact on tinnitus. Talk to your doctor to see if there might be a link between your medication and your tinnitus
  • Reduce intake of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine: Drinking alcohol or coffee, as well as smoking cigarettes, has been reported to negatively impact tinnitus6
  • Reduce stress: Stress can exacerbate tinnitus.6 Exercise, meditation and other relaxation therapies, as well as adequate amounts of sleep, are possible ways to reduce stress

Tinnitus treatment

The first step is to speak to a tinnitus specialist near you for more in-depth information.

The impact tinnitus has on my everyday life decreased tremendously — I can focus.

Treatment for tinnitus and ringing in ears

The principle behind tinnitus management

The aim of tinnitus management is to help you focus less on your tinnitus and provide you with relief

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Tinnitus treatment options

Find a tinnitus specialist

Who to consult and what to expect

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