WHAT IS TINNITUS
Tinnitus is the subjective perception of noise inside the ear without there being an outside sound source causing it. It is not a disease, but rather a symptom of anomaly in the hearing system or the upper auditory pathways. Multiple sensorineural and conductive hearing loss types can be accompanied by tinnitus, most notably a noise-induced hearing loss.
The subjective sounds can be perceived in one ear, in both ears or as a centralized ‘in the head’ noise. Tinnitus is mostly described as a ringing noise. However, these sounds can present themselves in different forms, namely hissing, buzzing, clicking or roaring noise. This condition is often accompanied by hyper sensitivity to environmental sounds known as hyperacusis. Hyperacusis is the condition where ordinary sounds are perceived as loud and uncomfortable.
This hearing anomaly impacts the life of about 10% of society, 10% of whom the symptoms significantly impair their quality of life. Although tinnitus is most commonly accompanied by a hearing loss, people with normal hearing acuity can equally suffer from tinnitus. Stress, fatigue, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol are non-auditory factors that influence the occurrence and severity.
HOW TO TREAT TINNITUS
A multidisciplinary team approach including the expertise of an audiologist, an ENT specialist and a psychologist is often needed for optimal treatment. Occasionally, the added expertise of a hearing aid acousticien or other specialized doctor will prove necessary.
Unfortunately, science has not yet identified a definitive cure for tinnitus. Consequently, alternative treatment methods with variable therapeutic effects are proposed:
- Brain stimulation techniques designed to stimulate the auditory cerebral cortex of the brain can be used to reduce the occurrence of this painful anomaly.
- Hearing aids are used to mask the tinnitus sound. They also cause the individual to be less aware of the tinnitus noise during conversation.
- Noise-generators can be used to create a soothing background noise to mask tinnitus. These systems are particularly useful for sleeping.
- Professional support and rehabilitation programs can reduce the negative emotional impacts of tinnitus.
- Relaxation techniques such as Yoga and other forms of physical activity such as walking and swimming can reduce the effects of tinnitus.
- Medications and homeopathic drugs are beneficial for certain cases.
- Alternative approaches like acupuncture and naturopathie can be used.
Tinnitus is best managed when the individual fully understands the condition, its irritants and treatment options.