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Demystifying Tinnitus: What is Tinnitus?

Written by Lara Toni Benigson

Hearing Health

5 Oct 2020

Lara Toni Benigson / Natanya Lee Ruso (Berry) –

Nobody else can hear it – the tinnitus – but you hear it all the time. It’s a ringing, buzzing, clicking, roaring or humming noise playing in your ears, and it’s exasperating. Some people hear it in one ear and others hear it in both. People with severe tinnitus may have problems hearing, working, communicating, or sleeping.

Fortunately, the ringing in your ears can be managed.

Where does the ringing come from?

The sounds you hear when you have tinnitus are generated by your brain. Tinnitus can be caused by a variety of factors, some of which you can’t control, such as simply aging. Most people who suffer from tinnitus have some form of hearing loss. And when you have hearing loss, your brain sometimes overcompensates by creating its own background noise, so to speak.

Tinnitus has also been associated with ear infections, earwax and sensory nerve disorders. Stress, high blood pressure and even alcohol could potentially also set off tinnitus. Most often, though, tinnitus is caused by repeated exposure to excessively loud noise.

Some forms of tinnitus can also be related to muscle movements near the ear, or problems with blood flow in the face or neck. On its own, however, tinnitus is not a sign of a serious medical problem.

How to stop the ringing…

If you suspect that you have some form of tinnitus, the first step is to undergo a professional evaluation. Tinnitus is not a disease — it is a symptom. It is an indication that something is possibly wrong with your auditory (hearing) system. A full diagnostic audiological tinnitus assessment will be able to determine where the dysfunction is. The assessment involves objective testing looking at outer, middle, and inner ear functioning.  There are a variety of different conditions that can cause tinnitus and a thorough assessment will be able to determine the cause.

The goal of treatment / management is to help you manage your perception and reaction of the sound in your head. There are many treatments available that can help reduce the perceived intensity of tinnitus, as well as its presence, such as:

  • Hearing aids
  • Sound-masking devices
  • Behavioural therapy
  • Tinnitus Retraining Therapy
  • Antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs
  • Treating dysfunctions and obstructions
  • Exercise
  • Mindfulness-based stress reduction
  • DIY mindfulness meditation

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