February 06, 2015
by weareallears
Tinnitus

Tinnitus: the facts

With this week being Tinnitus Awareness Week in the UK, we thought it was a good opportunity to raise awareness about tinnitus here in Australia too!

Public awareness of tinnitus remains painfully low, making it extremely important to educate people about the condition. It is only through education that people will understand how important it is to protect their ears to reduce their chances of developing tinnitus.

Read on to learn all the key facts about tinnitus, and what you can do to prevent it affecting you.

What is tinnitus?

The word ‘tinnitus’ comes from a Latin word meaning ‘to ring’. People with tinnitus hear a constant ringing, whistling, hissing or whooshing in their ears when no external noise is present. This noise can be very painful, frustrating and relentless, leaving sufferers with no peace and struggling to cope.

What causes tinnitus?

Tinnitus is not actually a disease, but rather a symptom of an underlying condition. Causes can include:

  • Exposure to loud sounds
  • Noise-induced hearing loss
  • A build up of wax against the eardrum
  • Excessive fluid in the inner ear
  • Head or neck injuries
  • Ear-bone changes (otosclerosis)
  • A tumour on the hearing nerve
  • Taking certain ototoxic medications
  • A jaw joint problem, such as TMJ

By far the most common cause of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises, especially over a long period of time. Musicians and people who work in noisy environments with no ear protection experience tinnitus at a higher rate than most.

People with hearing loss often experience tinnitus but many people with perfect hearing also have the condition.

How common is tinnitus?

Very common. Roughly 18% of Australians will experience tinnitus at some point in their lives.

Treatment

There is currently no cure for tinnitus, although clinical research is constantly being conducted to try and find one.

Studies have indicated that tinnitus disappears completely or at least diminishes over time in the majority of cases. This occurs as the brain loses interest in the sound and stops surveying the signal – a process known as ‘habituation’. The amount of time this process takes varies from person to person, but it does happen eventually in most cases.

There are also certain lifestyle changes you can make to help you cope with tinnitus. For example, avoiding stress has been proven to reduce the severity of tinnitus. Read our list of ten everyday tips for managing tinnitus book an appointment with a hearing clinician to discuss treatment options.

Prevention

There many simple things you can do to reduce your chances of developing tinnitus!

Use hearing protection when in noisy environments. Over time, exposure to loud noise can damage the nerves in the ears, causing hearing loss and tinnitus. If you work in a loud environment or attend a lot of loud events, make sure to wear hearing protection.

Turn down the volume. If you love listening to music through earphones, make sure you don’t have the volume up to high. We recommend listening to your MP3 player at around 70% of its maximum volume. Any louder than that is dangerous over an extended period of time.

Exercise regularly and stay healthy. Some researchers suggest that exercise may help prevent tinnitus because it improves blood flow to the structures of the ear. Conversely, obesity and smoking are risk factors for tinnitus as they reduce the flow of blood to the ear. 

Have you ever experienced tinnitus? Share your story with us in the comments below. 

February 06, 2015
by weareallears

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  • Michael Cox

    Hearing loss and noise! Over the past 2-3 months I have been noticing this strange noise in my right ear, its like a dull high pitch noise that has been gradually getting worse and now its constant and my right ear hearing seems muffled. So I off to hospital (when they call back to arrange an appointment & not holding my breath) to see whats going on. Anyone else experiencing similar issues and have some advise for me please?

  • Hi Michael,

    We hope you’ve managed to arrange a visit to see a hearing clinician. If you need help finding a local hearing clinic you can book a Connect Hearing appointment online here: http://bit.ly/19hy3VQ

    Do not hesitate to get back in contact if you have any further questions.

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