The Causes, Effects and Treatment of Tinnitus

Tinnitus presents in different ways in different subjects, but one thing all who experience its symptoms over long periods are certain to agree on is that it can be a highly debilitating condition. Everyone is certain to experience the condition occasionally during the course of a lifetime and it is likely to result in little more than a minor discomfort, usually subsiding as quickly as it appeared after an hour or so, and possibly less.

Frequently the cause will be a temporary blockage of the Eustachian tubes and often results from sudden changes in atmospheric pressure, perhaps during take-offs or landings aboard an aircraft. Tinnitus is also commonly triggered by a sudden exposure to a loud noise and most people will have experienced that typical and, thankfully, also temporary ringing in the ears during the course of a firework display. Ear infections also lead to blockages and abnormal sound conduction that can produce that same ringing sensation until the infection subsides.

In around 10% of the population, this is a condition that occurs far more frequently and in around half of these, it is persistent condition that frequently leads to sleep deprivation, anxiety and stress that seriously detract from the quality of life of sufferers. Paradoxically, stress and anxiety can themselves provoke tinnitus, and so actually reinforce these harrowing symptoms. Other causes include depression, tiredness and certain medications, while there is strong empirical evidence to suggest that dietary deficiencies play a role.

Not everyone experiences a ringing sensation. Other sufferers describe grinding, buzzing, humming, hissing and whistling sounds, while some even experience sounds that resemble voices or music. These sensations are, of course, completely subjective in nature and during the course of examination, the attending physician will normally hear absolutely nothing. This, however, is not always the case and occasionally these sounds can actually be a shared experience. Described as objective tinnitus, it can be caused by muscle spasms and clicking of the tiny bones in the middle ear.

For those in whom the condition is not a transient one, although it may not threaten their lives, it does threaten their quality of life and a variety of treatments are now available to help manage the condition. The subjective symptoms are commonly associated with the onset of hearing loss and most often, a hearing aid provides the solution. Although the symptoms persist, they are no longer evident, being masked by the natural sounds that he wearer is now able to hear. A similar effect can be effective in treating tinnitus and employs a technique known as sound enrichment. It uses music and other relaxing sounds via phone apps or CDs as a means to distract the ear from the annoying troublesome noises. For hearing aid users troubled by symptoms, there are models with a built-in white noise generator to achieve the same effect.

The consequences of leaving persistent symptoms untreated are clear and it is therefore important to investigate them. A visit to a physician or ENT specialist is an option, but Ear Institute centres are more accessible and also provide specialist services. We will first look for causes that may be treatable. In their absence, in addition to hearing aids, we offer sound enrichment, counselling and a proven micronutrient preparation to manage your tinnitus symptoms effectively.

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