Tinnitus is an extra-auditory sound which is solely heard by oneself. It has been described as ringing, crickets buzzing or a high-pitched sound. If the tinnitus sound level is high/ loud, the tinnitus can block one’s ability to hear speech or sounds around them. Tinnitus is not a diagnosis but a symptom which needs to be evaluated. It can cause much distress and impairment in a patient’s quality of life as it triggers anxiety, worry, frustration and cause insomnia.
The cause of tinnitus depends on the nature of it, and an accurate clinical assessment of a patient’s ear and hearing thresholds are needed.
What are the common causes of tinnitus?
- Hearing loss
- Meniere’s (accompanied with vertigo and ear fullness)
- Cochlear hydrops
- Vestibular schwanomma
- Ear or nasal tumours
- Prominent blood vessels in the skull region
- Tumours in the head and neck region
- Ear wax or ear infections
In order to identify the root cause of you tinnitus, a thorough evaluation will be carried out which involves clinical examination, formal audiometry and a Magnetic resonance imaging. Once sinister causes of your tinnitus are excluded, you can be commenced on tinnitus retraining therapy and tinnitus counselling to overcome your condition. In some cases, a small hearing aid may be needed to facilitate masking and tinnitus retraining therapy. Improvements can be seen as early as 1 month of therapy. Other adjuncts include relaxation techniques, Zen therapy and Environmental enrichment.
By protecting your ears, you can greatly reduce your chances of developing tinnitus or other conditions that lead to it. By wearing ear plugs at loud locations (workplace, concert, etc.) you can protect your sensitive ear organs from excessive damage or trauma that could lead to auditory complications and tinnitus.