Tinnitus: Why Are My Ears Ringing?July 27 2018
Tinnitus affects 1 in 10 Australians – that’s over 2,000,000 of us.
A ringing, swishing, or other noise in the ears or head when no external sound is present is called tinnitus. Usually, it’s more of a nuisance than a serious medical problem. In rare cases, it can be a sign of an underlying medical condition that needs attention.
In most cases, tinnitus is temporary. But for others, a constant ringing, buzzing, humming or clicking noise in their ears interfere with concentration and hearing. If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably also felt stressed, anxious and frustrated as a result. Here’s what you need to know.
Tinnitus is surprisingly common – there are even plenty of well-known celebrities who suffer from tinnitus, from Bob Dylan to Barbara Streisand. Research suggests that about 30 per cent of the population experience tinnitus at some point, while 15 percent report constant tinnitus symptoms. Each person’s symptoms will be slightly different. For example, you might experience ringing in the ears 24/7, while others have more sporadic bouts.
There are numerous causes for tinnitus:
- Fluid, infection, or disease of the middle ear bones or ear drum (tympanic membrane)
- Damage to the microscopic endings of the hearing nerve in the inner ear, which can also occur with advanced age
- Loud noise exposure, such as from firearms, or music at a concert
- Meniere’s syndrome
- In rare cases, tinnitus can be a symptom of a serious medical problem such as a brain aneurysm or acoustic nerve tumour.
While there’s no known cure for tinnitus, it’s easily managed with the help of technology, lifestyle changes and a few tips and techniques.
- Identify triggers – Pinpointing when you first became aware of it can help you to understand what causes it so you can avoid contributing factors.
- Avoid silence – Keep your ears busy with background noise like the TV or radio, to help distract your brain from the tinnitus sounds.
- Stay calm – Stress only makes tinnitus worse, and can sometimes be the cause of tinnitus entirely, so relaxing activities like a massage, meditation or yoga will help.
- Check medications – Some medications – like antibiotics, antidepressants and arthritis medications – make tinnitus worse, so tell your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms.
- Limit caffeine – This can temporarily worsen tinnitus symptoms so cut down on the coffee, cola and tea.
- Try technology – Tinnitus relief technology, like the Neuromonics range of devices, will address the auditory and emotional causes contributing to tinnitus.
- See an expert – A clinician can provide a structured rehabilitation to relieve tinnitus, while others find that counselling is an effective way to combat it.
- Sound therapy – The Sound Oasis Therapy System has been clinically proven to help diminish tinnitus discomfort. It provides a relaxing atmosphere that helps you fall asleep and reduce anxiety.
So, what’s next? The first step is to take a hearing test, to identify whether you have a hearing loss or an underlying condition that might be causing the tinnitus. Speaking to a hearing specialist will help you to develop a plan for managing the symptoms in a way that suits your lifestyle and needs.