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What is Tinnitus?

Monday, 15 January 2018

That ringing, buzzing, hissing, chirping or whistling sound in the ears has a name - it is called tinnitus and it is much more common than you may have thought. Here at HealthAndCare.co.uk we've put together a short article that can hopefully answer all your questions in a clear and comprehensive way, while help you decide what to do next if you believe you are currently suffering from tinnitus.

Tinnitus

What Is Tinnitus?

First of all, what exactly is tinnitus? Simply put, it is the awareness of sound in the ears or in the head which is not caused by an external source. It can manifest itself as ringing, white noise, buzzing, hissing, chirping or a combination of several sounds, either in one or both ears.

Tinnitus is not a disease itself or a cause of hearing loss, but a symptom that something else is wrong somewhere in the auditory system. In its mildest form, tinnitus is very common, while approximately 10% of the adult population in the United Kingdom experience a persistent form of this condition.

How Common Is Tinnitus and What Causes It?

Though tinnitus can occur at any age without a known cause, the condition is most often associated with an underlying hearing loss. Of the 10% who live with the condition, about half find it moderately or severely distressing, with about 0.5% of adults (242,000 people) in the UK having difficulties leading a normal life due to tinnitus.

Hearing Loss

Tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss, particularly in older people, but there are many other factors that can contribute to the condition. Some of the most common causes include:

  • Exposure to loud noise, such as heavy machinery, listening to music at loud volumes or operating firearms. Short-term exposure may have temporary effects, yet long-term use can cause permanent damage.
  • Otosclerosis, or stiffening of bones in the ear. This abnormal bone growth condition is normally passed down through genetics, which can sometimes cause partial deafness and tinnitus.
  • Earwax build-up can sometimes lead to short-term hearing loss or tinnitus. Though this is not a very common cause, make sure you make an appointment with your GP if you are experiencing noticeably high wax levels to have your ears professionally cleaned on a regular bases.

These are some of the most common causes, but tinnitus can also be a result of ear infections, head injury, a side-effect of medication or a result of some other health issues, such as high blood pressure. Last but not least, tinnitus can be worsened by increased levels of emotional stress.

How to Stop Tinnitus

While 10% of people suffer from persistent tinnitus, approximately 30% experience it at least at some point in their lives. This tells us that most find that their condition does settle down after the initial period, without having to do anything at all about it.

Tinnitus

If, however, your symptoms of tinnitus seem to persist and affect your daily life, you might want to take action. Below is a list of suggestions that may help you to reduce or stop tinnitus.

  • Relax, as tinnitus can become more pronounced when accompanied with stress and worrying. Find your favourite relaxation technique and learn how to calm yourself down, which can be beneficial for more than just your tinnitus.
  • Using a hearing aid can help with tinnitus, as it is often associated with loss of hearing. Hearing loss is a long and frequently unnoticeable process, so most people are surprised when they realise the reason behind their tinnitus was actually losing their hearing. If you feel this might be what is happening to you, we recommended this Beurer HA20 Hearing Amplifier to help you find out if that is the case.
  • Listening to background sounds can do wonders, since tinnitus is usually most noticeable in a quiet environment. Having your radio, music or television turned on when you are alone can help with not noticing the tinnitus as much, and we recommend either the Sound Oasis S-550-05 Sound Therapy System or the Sound Oasis S-100 White Noise Machine to help you tune out the tinnitus.
  • Addressing your sleep problems, as tinnitus is sometimes worst right before going to bed or at night, leading to difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep. Having white noise in your bedroom while you sleep can help with your symptoms, and we recommended this Tinnitus Sound Pillow with two built-in speakers to help you get a good night's rest.

Have you ever experienced tinnitus? Share your thoughts below or find us on Twitter and Facebook!

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