What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ears or head not caused by an external sound source. Ringing and buzzing sounds may be heard in one or both ears or appear to be generally in the head region but can be variable and difficult to decide exactly where it seems to be.

Almost always, it is a totally subjective noise which only the person who has it can hear. On rare occasions, it can be heard by others as well; this is called objective tinnitus but is not associated with the effects of noise exposure.

The sounds caused by tinnitus can be faint or loud, occasional or constant, steady or pulsing, and range from not bothersome to very annoying. It’s often more noticeable at night or when it’s quiet, and can be more of a problem when you are tired or stressed.

How Common Is Tinnitus?

How many people have tinnitus?

Don’t feel like you’re alone. Tinnitus is very common. About 20% of us have it to some extent.

About 90 percent of cases occur with an underlying hearing loss. The World Health Organisation (WHO) now lists tinnitus as a distinct disorder and states that noise exposure is a major cause of permanent hearing loss around the world.

Recent research confirms that it is the second most common form of hearing loss after age-related hearing loss. Prevalence increases with age but experiences of it are very common in all age groups, especially following exposure to loud noise.

About half of those who live with the condition find it moderately or severly distressing. You may suffer debilitating symptoms such as anxity, depression or sleep disturbances. It can be confusing and even frightening when it occurs for the first time, but it is rarely a symptom of a serios disorder.If it lasts for longer than a week, or it is affecting your concentration, sleep or anxiety levels, book an appointment with your GP or with your local National Hearing Care Audiologist or Audiometrist.

In some cases, the problem can be managed with relaxation exercises. There are also specialist hearing solutions available that can provide soothing tones to distract you from the noise.

What Causes Tinnitus?

It's not an illness or disease in itself, it is often a symptom of a problem with the ear or the hearing pathways to the brain. Usually, it occurs when the inner ear is damaged or impaired in some way.

Tinnitus can be caused by:

  • Exposure to excessive loud noise
  • Extreme stress or trauma
  • Hearing loss
  • Some prescription, and non-prescription medication

These are just a few of the common causes, but it can also be a side-effect of medication or a result of other health concerns, such as high blood pressure. It is also commonly associated with age-related hearing loss, although it can affect anyone at any age.

Hearing Aids & Tinnitus

Hearing aids can help your tinnitus as they assist in overcoming any underlying hearing loss. By reducing the amount of attention your brain is paying to the tinnitus, in most cases hearing aids can give you some relief.



Steps to Manage Your Tinnitus

Step 1: Seek Help

Make an appointment. National Hearing Care offers a free test to determine if you have hearing loss. If you do, you will undergo a full diagnostic consultation with an audiologist or audiometrist to find the right solution for you. 

Step 2: Reduce Exposure to Loud Noise 

Protect your ears with earplugs, or ear muffs. High-risk groups include industrial workers, farmers and war veterans.

Step 3: Hearing Aids 

Hearing Aids may assist with tinnitus by helping to overcome any underlying hearing loss.

Step 4: Relaxation & Meditation

If you relax more you stress less. The intention is to teach yourself to take the focus away from the tinnitus and to centre on what you enjoy.

Step 5: Diet

Ease up on caffeine, quinine and alcohol as they can temporarily increase tinnitus for some people.

Step 6: Exercise

Regular exercise helps the body achieve a higher level of well-being and in most cases helps people to ignore and better cope with their tinnitus. 

Step 7: Quit Smoking

Smoking narrows the blood vessels that supply vital oxygen to your ears and the sensory cells.