Tinnitus - A guide to Hearing Loss

This is a highly distressing condition in which sufferers experience a range of sounds within their ears (or their head) which includes ringing, whistling, buzzing and hissing.

People with tinnitus may experience one type of sound or a combination of sounds and these can vary in tone and volume. These sounds can occur in one ear or both, and may be intermittent, short term or even permanent.

Tinnitus isn’t an actual ‘disease’ but is the name given to a group of symptoms which occur as a result of a hearing problem. For example, damage to the inner ear caused by over exposure to loud music.

Some people find that they can live with these sounds but others find that they seriously impact upon their quality of life.

This disrupts normal hearing in that the sufferer finds it difficult to detect normal sounds due to this internal distraction.

Tinnitus can occur at any age, even in young children. It tends to be more common in older people as it can occur as a result of age-related hearing loss.

Causes of tinnitus

There are many causes of tinnitus which include:

  • Prolonged exposure to loud noise or music
  • Head trauma during a contact sport (for example, boxing)
  • Otosclerosis
  • Meniere’s Disease
  • Cytotoxic/ototoxic drugs (e.g. cancer drugs)
  • Ear allergies
  • Perforated ear drum
  • Side effect of some medications (i.e. aspirin)
  • Labyrinthitis
  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Autoimmune inner ear disease
  • Head cold/congestion

Tinnitus is usually a symptom of an injury, disease or illness which requires further investigation. Your GP may be able to do this or if needed, will refer you to an ear specialist. This specialist will carry out a series of tests to rule out the possibility of any of the conditions mentioned above. There isn’t a ‘cure’ for tinnitus but once the condition which caused your tinnitus is treated then it tends to go away.

But if you have long term tinnitus then it can be a miserable condition resulting in anxiety and depression. Stress is another factor but this can make it worse so if possible, try to avoid getting stressed. Relaxation techniques, massage or Yoga may help in this situation as can counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Treatment for tinnitus

This usually depends upon the cause. If your condition is caused by a virus or infection then antibiotics will help. Surgery is usually performed in the case of acoustic neuroma. A hearing aid can help if your hearing is affected as a result of this or if you are suffering from age-related hearing loss.

Some people find that complimentary medicine can help. Acupuncture, the Alexander Technique or meditation are all ways of dealing with tinnitus.

Hearing Loss

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