What is Tinnitus and How is it Treated?

frustrated young man sitting on a couch

When you visit an audiologist about a problem with your hearing, you might be diagnosed with a condition called tinnitus. But what is this condition, what do you need to know about it and what treatment options are available to you? Let’s explore the answers to these questions to make sure that you can tackle the issue head-on.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the name given to a condition that causes you to hear noises that aren’t there. The noise can be anything from a buzzing sound to vibrations, whistling or hissing of air. It can even be a piece of music and in rare cases may be the sound of your heartbeat. Tinnitus can be present in both ears or just one at varying levels of severity.

There are actually two main types of tinnitus: objective and subjective. While one can only be heard by the individual, the other may be heard by an audiologist using a listening device. The latter case typically has a physical cause such as a growth in the ear or excess ear wax.

The other type is usually due to damage to the ear due to exposure to loud noise. Anything above eighty decibels can put you at risk of developing tinnitus over time.

While it can be associated and linked to a loss of hearing, it can also occur on its own. Tinnitus can be made worse due to the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and certain foods. It also seems to be linked to stress and fatigue though experts are unsure why.

If there is no physical cause, tinnitus will often be permanent. However treatment options are available.

Treatment for tinnitus

If you are diagnosed with tinnitus, there are some treatment possibilities that an audiologist can recommend. They might suggest that you use masking hearing aids. Hearing aids like this will send a sound at the same frequency or pitch as the noise that you hear, essentially masking it. The noise you’ll hear over the sound of your tinnitus will be far more pleasant such as white noise.

Alternatively, some people find sound machines to be incredibly beneficial. With a sound machine, you can play a noise that you prefer to hear over your tinnitus. This could be anything from the sound of ocean waves to birds chirping. Some people find this helps them sleep or relax. Tinnitus can seem to be louder at night but in reality, it’s just a quieter setting.

Or, you can try tinnitus retraining therapy. Therapy like this is designed to train you to treat tinnitus as a sound that you don’t need to hear. We do this all the time naturally with the ticking of a clock or the sound of someone eating. Focus on that sound and it’s annoying but if it never reaches a conscious thought process it won’t bother you at all.

We hope this helps you understand this condition more. If you are worried about tinnitus, it’s best to speak to an audiologist to get the treatment you need.