Tinnitus is the perception of ringing in the ears when there is no sound actually present.
Tinnitus is not a disease, but a condition that occurs as a result of a dysfunction in the auditory system which includes the ears, auditory nerves and the hearing centres in the brain.
Tinnitus can result from a wide range of underlying causes such as hearing loss, Meniere’s disease, excessive noise exposure, ototoxic medications, neurological conditions, ear infections, stress, foreign objects in the ear or wax build-up. Approximately 20% of Australians will report some degree of tinnitus. The large majority of tinnitus will be described as mild having little or no impact on the life of the person. A small percentage of people will describe their tinnitus as severe and having a significant negative impact on their quality of life.
Temporary or transient tinnitus can occur as a result of noise exposure, ear infections, ear blockage or when exposed to loud noise. Often this will pass once the infection or medication is ceased. It may also resolve after noise exposure. However, transient tinnitus can become more permanent if exposure to noise is recurrent or if permanent damage to the auditory system occurs.
Tinnitus is often described as a high pitched ringing, buzzing, whistling or a cicada type sound. Although it can also be lower pitched or have several different tones. Many people will describe their tinnitus as fluctuating or intermittent.
However, it is usually most noticeable when the environment is quiet such as at night or early in the morning. Indeed, it is often at night while trying to fall asleep that people find tinnitus the most intrusive.
Tinnitus should always be checked by a doctor.
A consultation with your GP is the first step in investigating tinnitus. Following that a referral to an Audiologist and/or ENT specialist may be recommended. It is important to establish if there is any underlying treatable cause of the tinnitus.
Our Audiologists have extensive experience in assisting clients to manage their tinnitus. A number of treatments have been clinically shown to reduce the negative impact that tinnitus can have on people’s lives. Treatments include Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and other management techniques. As tinnitus is frequently aggravated by stress and anxiety some treatments are designed to assist in the management of stress.
Tinnitus and Hearing Loss
Tinnitus may be present with significant hearing loss. In these instances one of the most effective ways of reducing the perception of tinnitus is to use appropriate amplification in the form of hearing aids. Many hearing aids are specifically designed to assist with tinnitus suppression and include tinnitus maskers. Our Audiologists can advise you on the most suitable device and with their experience provide you with a comprehensive tinnitus treatment plan.
The Independent Hearing Centre is one of the only Audiology clinics in NSW to have a Clinical Psychologist specialising in tinnitus management. Maria Harasymczuk has over 20 years in assisting people with auditory disorders including tinnitus, hyperacusis, misophonia and phonophobia. In addition to Audiologists, ENT specialists, neurologists and psychiatrists all refer patients to Maria for treatment.