TINNITUS

It is one of the commonest physical symptoms and can affect all ages.
Sounds vary from ringing to buzzing and sometimes even musical…

Tinnitus is the conscious awareness of sound without an external stimulus. It can be a ringing sound, buzzing, rushing and for some people, even musical, which is experienced in the head or in one or both ears. It is one of the commonest physical symptoms and affects men and women equally.

How we hear sound

Our ears are only one part of the auditory system. The ear or pinna funnels sound waves from the air, through the ear canal (auditory meatus) onto the ear drum (tympanic membrane), causing it to vibrate. Behind the ear drum are the ossicles, commonly known as the hammer, anvil and stirrup that contract and relax to the vibration of the ear drum. The sound is then transferred to the inner ear. In the inner ear you have the cochlear, which has a special frequency organisation allowing us to hear high frequency sounds differently to low frequency sounds. Sound from the cochlea is then converted into electrical energy that travels up the nerve to then be processed by the central auditory system in the brain for us to interpret.

What does our anatomy tell us about tinnitus?

Why do we hear a sound that isn’t externally there? Some theories suggest that damage to the cells in the cochlear e.g. through noise exposure or ageing causes the cochlear to spontaneously fire a signal, resulting in an internal sound. When it reaches the central auditory system it is our reaction to the sound and whether we perceive it as a threat that can result in troublesome tinnitus. If we feel anxious because of it, we then focus on it more, resulting in a vicious cycle.

Treatment for Tinnitus.

Hearing aids

Getting your hearing assessed and wearing an accurately set hearing aid is usually enough for most sufferers. This is because you are able to hear the things around you better which means you are less likely to notice any tinnitus.

Group therapy

Getting your hearing assessed and wearing an accurately set hearing aid is usually enough for most sufferers. This is because you are able to hear the things around you better which means you are less likely to notice any tinnitus.

breathing

Breathing and relaxation

Breathing well stimulates the activity of our vagus nerve resulting in a calmer you. Breathing and relaxation techniques for tinnitus can, therefore, help you to manage your tinnitus effectively on a day to day basis.
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Cognitive behavioural therapy for tinnitus

It is sometimes our perceived ‘threat’ of tinnitus that makes us focus on it. With mindfulness cognitive behavioural therapy you can learn how to react differently to this ‘threat’.

Common causes of tinnitus

Age Related Hearing Loss

Natural Hearing Loss

As you get older, usually by the time you are fifty, the cells within the inner ear are damaged due to wear and tear, resulting in hearing loss. This is called Presbyacusis or Presbycusis. This might explain why tinnitus is most prevalent in those over sixty.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss

Sudden hearing loss can be due to a viral infection or autoimmune disease. Damage to the cells in the inner ear has a similar effect to that of ageing.

Noise exposure

Prolonged exposure to loud noise either through work or recreation can cause cell damage similar to that of ageing. If the sound is loud and intense enough such as gunshot or bomb blast, hearing loss can be sudden. Hearing tests results usually reveal a dip at 4KHz. You can prevent damage to your hearing and reduce the risk of tinnitus bu using custom ear protection.

Acoustic Neuroma

An acoustic neuroma is a benign (non-cancerous) growth on the eighth cranial nerve. Patients usually present with unilateral tinnitus and an asymmetry in hearing and can also sometimes feel dizzy.

Otosclerosis

A condition where there is a bony overgrowth of the stapes bone (also known as the stirrup), in the middle ear. The restricted movement results in a reduction in sound energy and therefore, the sound has to be louder in order to reach the middle ear. Patients can undergo surgery- a stapedectomy. This is a relatively uncommon cause of tinnitus.

Smoking

There is some suggestion that smoking increases the chances of hearing loss and tinnitus. Smoking is linked with cardiovascular disease and can reduce the amount of oxygen delivered to the cells in the inner ear, resulting in cell death. There may also be a link with higher stress levels in smokers.

Ear wax

Ear wax or cerumen helps to keep the ear healthy and provides lubrication. If it builds up it can cause a blockage of sound so that you hear internal sounds much more, resulting in tinnitus, though it is uncommon.

Meniere’s

A balance condition thought to be caused by abnormal levels of sodium and postassium in the inner ear. It may be caused by a viral infection or could be autoimmune, resulting in a low frequency hearing loss which is fluctuating; this fluctuation in hearing eventually stops and the patient is left with a permanent hearing loss. Aural fullness and commonly a low frequency tinnitus sound is the warning sign that the patient is about to feel dizzy.

Drugs

innitus can be a result of medication such as anti-inflammatory drugs like Aspirin (in high doses) or Ibuprofen. Quinine (an anti-malarial drug), some antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs may also result in tinnitus.

Do you feel as though your tinnitus is affecting your quality of life?

Let us help you regain control.