Tinnitus - What You Need To Know

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a hearing disorder experienced by a small proportion of the population in the world. It is experienced differently depending on the individual, but is described most commonly as a ringing in the ears, whistling, or buzzing sound, even when no sound is being produced anywhere.

In other words, tinnitus patients hear these sounds that do not exist. This may present as either continuously or periodically, and can also be classified into 2 types, objective and subjective tinnitus.

Objective Tinnitus

A less common condition, where sounds that are heard by the patient can also be heard by others (usually the doctor). The sounds are produced by vascular disorders or muscle contractions inside the ear and are picked up by the patient’s ear.

Subjective Tinnitus

A more common condition, where only the patient is able to hear the sounds. The sounds are experienced due to defect in the nerves involved in the auditory pathway, that connect our inner ear and brain.

Interestingly, 94% of adults with normal healthy hearing actually experience tinnitus in extremely quiet settings. 80% of the population who have tinnitus are non-bothersome, meaning it does not affect their daily lives significantly. In contrast, only 4% of people seek medical help for their condition.

Causes and Risk factors of Tinnitus

Below are some of the common causes of tinnitus.

Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when either the auditory nerve or cells inside your ear (known as hair cells) are damaged. This causes them to randomly send electrical signals to the brain and are interpreted as sound. This is a common form of age-related hearing loss.

Loud noises

People with normal hearing can also experience tinnitus if they are suddenly exposed to very loud noises. If one is regularly exposed to loud sounds, hair cells in their ears get damaged over time, and it affects their functionality, causing tinnitus.

Certain medications

Some drugs may trigger unwanted tinnitus and tends to stop once medication ceases. Anti-inflammatory drugs, diuretics, anti-depressants and some cancer drugs are known to cause tinnitus as a side effect.

There are also some common risk factors that increase one’s risk of tinnitus.

  • Chronic loud noise exposure

  • Age

  • Gender (males have a higher risk)

  • Tobacco and alcohol abuse

  • Meniere disease (inner ear disorder)

  • Some chronic diseases (e.g. obesity, high blood pressure)

Similarly, if one is experiencing any ear discharge, it is recommended to temporarily discontinue the usage of hearing aids as the fluids may also cause further ear infections. The moisture in the ear canal makes the environment perfect for possibly harmful bacteria to thrive. Bacteria that can cause infection will have a negative effect on our hearing. The resulting pain, swelling or discharge from infections can make it difficult to wear hearing aids. This can put a pause on stimulations including hearing, daily conversations, and our social lives.

 

Hearing aid cleanliness goes beyond just cleaning. It is also important to keep our hearing aids dry and store them in suitable conditions. Read on to find out how to keep different types of hearing aids clean and dry.

What are the treatment options for Tinnitus?

Before treatment is recommended for the patient, the patient needs to be first properly diagnosed by a trained audiologist. This is done through a variety of hearing tests.

After diagnosis, a treatment program or a management program would be recommended.

1. Treatment methods

Depending on the underlying problem, different treatments for tinnitus are available. Some examples include:

  • Excessive earwax is removed from the ear canal.

  • Pre-existing medication that is suspected to cause tinnitus will warrant a change or reduce medication.

  • A pre-existing disease would have to be treated medically or surgically.

hearing aid

2. Management methods

The goal of management methods is to reduce the perception of tinnitus so that it minimizes the impact it has on one’s daily lives. These methods will take time, and tend to get confused with eliminating tinnitus completely.

  • Acoustic (sound) therapy

Using hearing aids, or other sound generating devices, tinnitus is masked using a form of background noise. Other sound generating devices include ear-level sound generators, table-top sound generators and even sound pillows.

  • Counselling and education

This method takes a longer time, which focuses on helping the patient reduce fear reactions, identify and minimize tinnitus triggers. Learning how to identify relief situations and maximize tinnitus-free conditions.

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Conclusion

Tinnitus patients often suffer in silence because no one else hears what they are experiencing. There is a tendency for these patients to harbor negative emotions like “why must it be me?”, and “this is awful”. This could lead to a vicious cycle of creating more stress and worry, which exacerbates their condition.

There are people with mild tinnitus and are not significantly affected by it. However, there are people whose daily lives are greatly affected by it and should seek medical help as early as possible.

The Hearing Centre – Best Hearing Aids in Singapore

If you are searching for the best hearing aids in Singapore, look to The Hearing Centre. We are a pioneer in providing top-quality hearing devices to the hearing impaired for over 17 years and counting. Our experienced team provides a full suite of hearing-related services from consultation, to assessment, hearing aid fitting, and post-care, all tailored to your individual needs.

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