Tinnitus is one of those topics that gets covered regularly because it affects so many. It is estimated that up to a quarter of Australians have experienced varying degrees of tinnitus. Some get intermittent occurrences, while others find it a constant background sound. And while many people are able to “ignore it”, for some, it can be the cause of much stress. So what can be done about this prevalent condition?
Everyone can experience tinnitus differently. For most, it manifests as a ringing or buzzing in one or both ears. For some, it may sound more like a rushing sound, drumming or pulsing. In essence, tinnitus refers to the sounds that you are hearing but you know aren’t there. For many people, the condition is worsened in moments of quiet, making going to bed a common trigger. However, it can always be present, making it hard to hear or concentrate. And in extreme cases, tinnitus can, unfortunately, cause a lot of stress and affect one’s ability to work and live.
It’s not easy to hear there is no cure for a condition affecting us like this. But there are many ways to manage and lessen the prevalence and impact of the sound. First and foremost, it’s important to understand the emotional relationship with tinnitus. The sounds are worsened in times of stress and anxiety and when thinking about them. That’s not to say “it’s all in your head” of course. But our emotional state can be directly linked to worsening tinnitus, so it’s important to work on that mindfulness and acceptance. Some specially designed tinnitus apps focus on helping you cope mentally with the sounds to ease the impact somewhat.
Next is what you can actively do in your everyday life to help lessen the sounds you are experiencing. While there’s no certain reason why people get tinnitus, it is generally accepted that it comes from the brain. More specifically, in quiet environments or when someone has a hearing loss, the brain expects to hear sounds but doesn’t. To compensate for this, it can create noise that it “assumes” is covering the sound it should be hearing. Some say it can even be the brain processing the sounds of your ears actually functioning. In any case, some simple steps to help can include introducing mild background noise in quiet times. This could mean turning on the fan or opening a window at night. Some tinnitus apps are designed to play background white noise or sound to distract the brain.
Finally, while it’s not a guarantee, most tinnitus sufferers also show a degree of hearing loss. But even without having a hearing loss, one of the most effective counters of tinnitus is hearing aids. If tinnitus stems from too little sounds making it to the brain, feeding it the sounds it’s missing logically helps. Of course, once again, hearing aids aren’t a cure for tinnitus. For those with hearing loss, the hearing aid can help compensate for the sounds the brain misses.
Technology that helps
Furthermore, hearing aids can offer tinnitus programs through background sounds. Most hearing aids nowadays can offer a variety of sounds – like white noise or rain – to play seamlessly. One hearing aid brand – Signia – goes even further with their “Notch Therapy” to help combat tonal tinnitus. These hearing aids are able to match the pitch of the ringing/buzzing and play sounds at the same pitch. Over time, they then reduce the volume of these sounds to train the brain to recognise the noise as fake. While this may not work for everyone, if tinnitus is something you are dealing with daily, it’s worth a try.
Our team can help
Falls of Sound offers tinnitus-specific consultations for our patients. These appointments conduct a hearing assessment, following which your audiologist will discuss management techniques. If we find enough of a loss or your symptoms are significant enough, we can organise a hearing aid trial. Being such a subjective condition, managing tinnitus takes a different shape for everyone. But if you have been struggling and would like to discuss options, give us a call. Our friendly team will be happy to assist in any way we can.