Everything you need to know about tinnitus

You know that ringing noise you hear in your ears after going to a rock concert or to other noisy places? That’s tinnitus. In most cases tinnitus is temporary. But for others, a constant ringing, buzzing, humming or clicking noise in their ears interferes with concentration and hearing. If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably also felt stressed, anxious and frustrated as a result. Here’s what you need to know.

You aren’t alone

Tinnitus is surprisingly common – there are even plenty of well-known celebrities who suffer from tinnitus, from Bob Dylan to Barbara Streisand.

What causes it?

Tinnitus has a range of triggers, from age-related hearing loss to exposure to loud noise or even simple earwax blockage. There are actually two kinds of tinnitus, which have different causes.

Subjective tinnitus – This involves sounds that can only be heard by you and is usually caused by exposure to loud noises over time. It can also be triggered by an ear infection, medication or head injury.

Objective tinnitus – This can also be heard by a professional using a special listening device, and is usually caused by irregularities in the blood flow or cardiovascular system. It’s far less common but it’s good to rule it out by visiting your GP or an audiologist for a hearing test.

How to manage tinnitus

While there’s no known cure for tinnitus, it’s easily managed with the help of technology, lifestyle changes and a few tips and techniques.

Identify triggers -  Pinpointing when you first became aware of it can help you to understand what causes it so you can avoid contributing factors.

Avoid silence – Keep your ears busy with background noise like the TV or radio, to help distract your brain from the tinnitus sounds.

Stay calm – Stress only makes tinnitus worse, and can sometimes be the cause of tinnitus entirely, so relaxing activities like a massage, mediation or yoga will help.

Check medications – Some medications - like antibiotics, antidepressants and arthritis medications - make tinnitus worse, so tell your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms.

Limit caffeine – This can temporarily worsen tinnitus symptoms so cut down on the coffee, cola and tea.

Try technology – Tinnitus relief technology, like the Neuromonics range of devices, will address the auditory and emotional causes contributing to tinnitus.

See an professional – A clinician can provide a structured rehabilitation to relieve tinnitus, while others find that counselling is an effective way to combat it.

Sound therapy – The Sound Oasis Therapy System has been clinically proven to help diminish tinnitus discomfort. It provides a relaxing atmosphere that helps you fall asleep and reduce anxiety.

So, what’s next?

The first step is to take a hearing test, to identify whether you have a hearing loss or an underlying condition that might be causing the tinnitus. Speaking to a hearing professional will help you to develop a plan for managing the symptoms in a way that suits your lifestyle and needs.

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