This article is here to help you learn all about tinnitus, including what it is and how to help!
What is it?
Tinnitus is defined as auditory perception without external sound, and it affects around 15% to 20% of people, and is especially common in older adults. Most people experience a ringing or a buzzing sound, but there is a long list of potential sounds you could hear. You may hear these sounds in one or both ears, or in your head. They may come and go, or you might hear them all the time. Approximately 1% of the population experience this problem severely enough to affect aspects of their quality of life.
Causes of Tinnitus…
Although it is not clear what exactly causes it, it usually comes with some degree of hearing loss.
Tinnitus is often associated with:
- age-related hearing loss
- inner ear damage caused by repeated exposure to loud noises
- an earwax build-up
- a middle ear infection
- Ménière’s disease – a condition that also causes hearing loss and vertigo (a spinning sensation)
- otosclerosis – an inherited condition where an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear causes hearing loss
However, around 1 in 3 people with tinnitus do not report any other obvious problems with their ears or hearing.
Advancements are being made, and recently the British Tinnitus Association (BTA) awarded a £125k grant for research that could predict who will develop tinnitus. This research will use data from twin studies to identify biomarkers and special molecules in their blood which can help to diagnose and/or predict who will develop tinnitus. Click here for more information.
There is currently no single cure for tinnitus that works for everyone. However, researchers are not giving up and hopes of finding a universal effective treatment are continuing. For example, the BTA have also invested £118k into Artificial Intelligence research to develop an objective measure of tinnitus. They hope this research will help identify possible causes and have the potential to guide new treatment options. Click here for more information.
If there is a clear underlying cause of your tinnitus, treating it may be more simple. For example, if it is being caused my an earwax build up, this can be remedied by removing the built up wax.
If there is no specific cause or association, it is more difficult. Rather than looking to remove the problem, the treatment will focus on helping you manage the issue on a daily basis. This could include:
- sound therapy – listening to neutral sounds to distract you from the sound of tinnitus
- counselling – therapy that aims to educate you about tinnitus and help you learn to cope with it more effectively
- tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) – therapy that aims to help retrain the way your brain responds to tinnitus so you start to tune the sound out and become less aware of it
- cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) – therapy that aims to help change the way you think about your tinnitus so it becomes less noticeable
Although cognitive therapy was developed as a psychological treatment, it also can apply to tinnitus. Cognitive therapy cannot cure or eliminate the ringing or buzzing; however, it is one of the most widely used therapy methods for alleviating the annoyance. For more information about how CBT is used to treat tinnitus, click here.
If you are concerned about tinnitus, call us on 01223 360700 (Cambridge), 01638 593113 (Newmarket) or 01799 611591 (Saffron Walden).