Tinnitus is a sensation of sound generated inside your head that only you can hear. The sound can take many forms, such as ringing, buzzing, hissing or roaring. Some people experience it occasionally, while for others tinnitus is with them constantly.
Tinnitus has many causes and more than 80% of people with tinnitus also experience some degree of hearing loss. Tinnitus can have a major impact on people’s daily lives, inducing stress, anxiety, anger and sleep loss.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease – there are many possible causes. Inside the ear are tiny hair cells that convert the sounds you hear into signals the brain can understand. If some of these hair cells are damaged, the brain receives fewer signals. Research suggests that our brain tries to compensate for the missing signals by producing a new sound in their place. This is the most common reason for the sounds that people with tinnitus hear in their heads.
There are many reasons why hair cells may be damaged – the natural ageing process, exposure to loud sounds or sudden impact noises are common ones. However, tinnitus can also be caused by a reaction to certain medicines, neck or head injuries, or other untreated medical conditions. You should always consult a physician or hearing professional first if you are experiencing the symptoms of tinnitus.
How does it affect me?
Some people can ignore their tinnitus most of the time. For others, however, the symptoms can become so disturbing that a proper night’s sleep is impossible. A negative cycle can begin, causing tinnitus to take centre stage in everyday life. Although tinnitus can have a negative impact, effective treatments can be found.
Can my tinnitus be treated?
There are many ways to take control of your tinnitus and reduce its impact on your life. Although there is no cure for tinnitus, your hearing care professional can help you take back control and manage the symptoms. Education and counselling along with sound therapy can be an effective combination. Just as no two people experience the exact same symptoms of tinnitus, treating it needs to be personalised to your own needs.