What is tinnitus?

1. What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a perception of sound in one ear, both ears, or the head and is not associated with an external sound. Tinnitus is often described as ringing, buzzing, hissing, running water, chirping, or clicking. Sometimes tinnitus can manifest itself as music.

2. What causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is not a disease; it is a symptom of an underlying health condition. The most common health conditions associated with tinnitus are hearing loss related to noise exposure (e.g. music, loud equipment), aging-related hearing loss, ear infections (e.g. otitis media), head and neck traumas, medication (e.g. ototoxic), ear wax, or emotional stress (e.g. depression, anxiety).
Tinnitus can be temporary, as in the case of ear wax; once you remove the wax, tinnitus will go away. Tinnitus that lasts more than six months most likely will not go away, and you should have a tinnitus assessment and discuss possible tinnitus treatment.

3. Can tinnitus cause hearing loss?

No. Tinnitus can affect your concentration, but it does not cause hearing loss. In many cases, tinnitus is due to a pre-existing hearing loss.
The two most common causes of tinnitus are noise exposure and aging-related hearing loss. These two types of hearing losses are related to the damage to the hair cells in the cochlea. The brain stops receiving correct information from the cochlea, causing an abnormal neural activity, which is perceived as tinnitus.

4. What happens in our brain when we start noticing Tinnitus?

Once our brain becomes aware of tinnitus, it can start to fixate on the sound. Several factors can influence our emotional reaction to this new sound. Is it annoying, or is it non-bothersome? If we negatively respond to our tinnitus, it can be more dominant in our lives, and our stress levels increase. Tinnitus is often worse at night because it is quieter. The increased level of tinnitus can make it difficult to fall asleep or have a good quality sleep, affecting the next day’s level of concentration. This negative reaction to tinnitus can set up a vicious circle of anxiety and annoyance.

5. What are the most common effects of tinnitus?

Tinnitus becomes a disorder when it starts affecting daily activities. The most common effects are anxiety, fatigue, stress, depression, trouble sleeping, lack of concentration, and sound intolerance.

6. What are some treatment options for tinnitus?

Tinnitus has no cure; however, there are several strategies to help you manage the condition.
If you have a treatable medical condition connected to your symptoms, the doctor may be able to reduce the noise. For example:

Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)

TRT can help people habituate (grow accustomed) to their tinnitus. TRT combines sound therapy with informational counselling to reduce the emotional and fearful associations of tinnitus.
Group and individual TRT sessions are offered through the audiology departments of some hospitals. A copy of the “consult” letter from your otolaryngologist (ENT doctor) and copies of any hearing tests are likely required to make an appointment.

Wideband sound therapy using a sound generator

Benefits of sound therapy include:
Pink (more bass than white) and brown (more bass than pink) noise may be most comfortable for people with tinnitus. Use of a tabletop sound machine or sound pillows rather than in-ear devices is recommended at night to improve sleep quality.

Sound amplification

Tinnitus can be helped with sound amplification with or without a sound generator using hearing aids. Most modern hearing aids have a sound generator option. Addressing even mild hearing loss can decrease tinnitus awareness.
Other benefits of using hearing aids include:

7. Can tinnitus be prevented?

Other benefits of using hearing aids include:
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