What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the term used to describe sounds heard that are not present in our environment.

Tinnitus is typically heard as ringing, buzzing, hissing, or clicking. Tinnitus may be heard as a single sound or a combination of sounds. It may come and go or be persistent.

Typically, tinnitus is more noticeable in quiet. In noisy environments are ears and brain are kept busy processing the external sounds we hear.

Tinnitus may affect one’s everyday life and overall mental health.
Tinnitus Facts courtesy of Natus 

Tinnitus-specific hearing instruments

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Therapy and counseling

Tinnitus typically occurs with hearing loss or a change in hearing. It can also develop from a range of medical conditions, stress, fatigue, or conditions affecting the jaw and neck.

Tinnitus may occur as a result of exposure to loud sounds. Here the internal hair cells within your cochlea can be temporarily damaged, resulting in tinnitus and your hearing sounding muffled. Your hearing system needs time to recover, which typically occurs within hours or a couple of days. While this is a temporary condition, repeated exposure can result in permanent hearing loss and tinnitus.

No. Management of your tinnitus depends upon it’s likely cause and the impact it is having on your daily life. It typically involves a multidisciplinary approach.

There is not a “one solution fits all” approach in tinnitus management. Supports need to be tailored specifically for your presentation.

Your audiologist may recommend hearing aids, a tinnitus masking device, or sound therapy.

You may also be referred to a psychologist specialising in cognitive behavioural therapy to re-train your brain to not focus on, or associate meaning to, these internal sounds.

You may spontaneously adapt to your tinnitus over time, like many people do, particularly when you have a greater understanding of your hearing system and anything sinister has been ruled out from audiological and medical assessments. Habituation involves a gradual increase in time when you are not aware of your tinnitus, along with a reduction in your emotional reaction to it. The team at All Ears & Speech can support you with self-management strategies to help you habituate to your tinnitus.

Yes. Hearing loss causes an increase in listening effort and thereby an increase in awareness of our internal body sounds. When we focus on these sounds, we become even more aware of them and here starts the vicious cycle of tinnitus. Hearing aids reduce our listening effort by making sounds easier to hear. This in turn decreases our awareness of internal noises. Hearing aids further address communication difficulties, reduce stress, and improve our overall health and well-being. There are many options are available to suit varying hearing levels and lifestyles.

Tinnitus is more noticeable in quiet listening environments when there are no other external sounds to mask it. Tinnitus may be further exacerbated if you have had a particularly stressful or busy day. This can cause you to become more distressed about not going to sleep which in turn increases your awareness of your tinnitus. Again, it can become a vicious cycle with distraction of our brain required to reduce our attention to and awareness of internal noises.

Should tinnitus affect your sleep, try listening to pleasant sounds to focus on something else thereby reducing your awareness of internal noises. People talking is not recommended as this requires cognitive effort and increased attention. You may like to try music, relaxation apps, white noise generators or other sound generators.

The first steps in managing tinnitus are to consult your GP and to see an Audiologist for a comprehensive hearing assessment.

A comprehensive audiology assessment will include a detailed discussion of your hearing and medical history (including questionnaires) and the assessment of;

  • your middle ear health
  • the integrity of your auditory nerve pathway
  • cochlea function
  • the softest sounds you can hear
  • your loudness discomfort levels,
  • pitch matching for your tinnitus
  • and your ability to discriminate between speech sounds.

Results will be discussed, and a detailed report provided to ensure you have a good understanding of your auditory system.

 You may be referred to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist for medical opinion. This may involve scans to ensure the auditory nerve is healthy and to help identify any possible causes.

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