Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ears with no external sound source. This can take various forms, such as buzzing, ringing, hissing or clicking. Although many people may experience it in some form or other throughout their lifetime, it is only when it becomes more frequent and bothersome that it starts becoming a problem.
Medical help should be the first stop for someone with this issue to make sure that there are no underlying medical problems that need to be addressed. In many cases the tinnitus is not a direct threat to health, in the sense that it may be related to age, hearing loss or injury and does not require any significant medical intervention. That said, it may still be a significant cause of stress for the patient suffering from this condition. If you, or a person close to you, suffer from this condition, it is important to acknowledge that it is absolutely normal to feel stressed. Stress is a big factor in how tinnitus is perceived and it is not beneficial to get stressed about the fact that you got stressed in the first place. This should be the starting point from where you do something about what you are feeling. Some options include:
– Hearing aids: In some cases, there might be a hearing loss. Because of this, the tinnitus is perceived to be louder in the absence of sound. Simply correcting the hearing loss might be enough to reduce the perception of tinnitus.
– Use of sound: Keeping a fan or radio on, or using a noise generator (which produces background noise such as white noise of other constant sound) introduces noise which may make the tinnitus sound quieter.
– Psychological help: Counselling and Cognitive behavioural therapy are useful in accepting and dealing with the tinnitus by giving you tools to deal with the condition.
– Specialised programmes: Programmes such as Tinnitus retraining therapy are therapies specifically catering for tinnitus.
– Relaxation techniques: Use of breathing techniques, meditation and activities such as yoga and tai chi may help reduce overall levels of stress and affect tinnitus perception.
– Support groups: Finding groups (local or online) where you can discuss what you are feeling might be a way for you to accept and understand your condition a bit more. However, it is important to keep in mind with this option that you should be very careful of using untested treatments just because someone suggested them (especially online). In such cases, always seek advice from a trained professional.
As seen above, there are various options and while some may be beneficial, others might not be the right option for you. So it’s important to try different treatments or combinations of treatments until you find the right one for you. Do consult with an audiologist. The important thing is not to get discouraged when the first thing you try does not work. With tinnitus, one should understand and accept that it is a process. We are all unique in our own way, there might not be a quick fix, but it’s just a matter of slowly finding what works for you.
Mr Nicholas Desira is in the final stages of becoming a fully qualified audiologist after training in the UK at the University of Southampton. Nicholas is particularly interested in the use of assistive listening devices and vestibular disorders but is passionate about all aspects of audiology.