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Tinnitus

It’s possible to find relief from tinnitus - you’ve come to the right place. Tinnitus is the medical term for the hearing of sound in your ears or head when no external sound is present. Tinnitus itself is not a condition or a disease. Instead, it’s a symptom — typically of something bigger going on with your hearing or body, like ear infections, high blood pressure or hearing loss.

Everyone’s tinnitus is different, which has in the past made finding relief so elusive. Below, we answer all your questions about tinnitus. The more you know about it, the easier it is to take back control.

What’s that ringing in my ears?

Typically, sufferers of tinnitus describe the sound as "ringing in the ears", though others may describe it as a hissing, buzzing, squealing, whistling, roaring and even chirping. The sounds of tinnitus are unique to the individual. Because of this, the treatment plans our hearing specialists create for each tinnitus patient will be just as individual.

The important thing to know is that, you’re in good company. Nearly one in five Australians will experience tinnitus, from mild and temporary, through to severe. Each person will also have a different experience on how bothersome they find their tinnitus and how much it impacts their quality of life.

Have a listen to some of the noises of tinnitus on the Australian Tinnitus Association website. The best thing to do if you, or a loved one, is experiencing any sounds originating from inside the ears or head, is to come visit us at your local clinic, or see your GP. We can explore further if this is tinnitus, and what could be causing it.

What causes tinnitus? 

The most common causes of tinnitus are:

  • Exposure to excessive noise exposure (without the right hearing protection) e.g. gunshots, machinery or live music
  • The natural aging process
  • Head or neck injury
  • Side effects from medication
  • Ear infections

Our clinicians will need to see you in person to determine what might be causing your tinnitus, and so that any serious underlying medical conditions can be ruled out.

Is there a cure for tinnitus?

While research continues, there is currently no ‘cure’ for tinnitus. But there are plenty of ways to get relief and manage the impact it has on your life. Please be wary of the many promises to cure tinnitus, and “miracle products” out there on the internet — these have no scientific basis.

Instead, working with health professionals such as a GP, ENT or audiologist will ensure that you’ll be able to access the right treatment plan for you.

What tinnitus treatments are available?

It depends on what’s causing the tinnitus. Sometimes the problem can be treated easily, and that alleviates the symptom of tinnitus. Like an ear infection for example. If the cause of your tinnitus means that it is persistent or permanent, we’ll then help you with steps to relief the discomfort.

Counselling and sound therapy (tinnitus retraining therapy or habituation) can lessen your emotional response to the sounds. You can train your brain to attach no negative emotional meaning to the tinnitus, so you can get back to living life the way you want to.

If you have a hearing loss as well as tinnitus, our ihear clinicians can recommend hearing aid products with special Multiflex Tinnitus Technology.  These deliver a customisable and comforting ‘sound therapy’ stimulus that will balance, soothe, or even completely mask the unwanted tinnitus noises.

Can I have tinnitus in one ear?

It’s definitely possible to experience the ringing, buzzing, hissing or other noises of tinnitus in one ear only. How your tinnitus manifests will depend on the underlying cause.

Can I have tinnitus without hearing loss? 

Most of the tinnitus cases we see are accompanied by some degree of hearing loss. This is because most cases of tinnitus, certainly when excessive noise exposure is involved, are linked to damage in the cochlear. The cochlear is a structure in the inner ear which is lined with tiny sensory hair cells. These are damaged by both prolonged loud noise and the aging process, and they cannot regenerate. Damage to these hairs interferes with the efficiency of sound transfer to the brain, resulting in a hearing loss. 

Your tinnitus itself can be loud enough that it’s difficult to listen and hear sometimes. The Better Hearing Institute estimate that around 39% of people with tinnitus are affected this way.

If you are experiencing tinnitus, come in for a free hearing health check with one of our hearing health professionals. The earlier we treat your hearing loss, the better the results we can achieve together.  

What medications can cause tinnitus or make it worse? 

Did you know more than 200 types of medications can cause you to experience tinnitus? That’s according to the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

Some of these include over-the-counter drugs you might have in your own bathroom cabinet, like aspirin and ibuprofen. Certain antibiotics, antidepressant, diuretics and strong cancer medications can also induce tinnitus as a side-effect.

When taking medications, be sure to stick to the recommended dosages, and see your doctor if you are bothered by tinnitus as a side-effect. Much of the time, when your dosage is stopped or reduced, the tinnitus will ease.

Is it normal to get tinnitus with an ear infection?

Built-up earwax or a middle-ear infection (otitis media) can be the cause of temporary tinnitus. The good news is that when the infection or blockage is treated and cleared, your tinnitus symptoms should also clear. See your doctor if you suspect you have an ear infection, as early treatment will limit any potential damage to the delicate hearing system.

What is tinnitus retraining therapy?

Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) is also known as habituation therapy. It involves the retraining of the auditory system to recognise the annoying sounds of tinnitus as natural, rather than as a threat. The goal is to remove negative emotions associated with the noises, alleviating the stress and anxiety of tinnitus. TRT consists of both educational counselling sessions and sound therapy.

Studies have shown that around 80 percent of patients treated through TRT have achieved relief. They may be aware of their tinnitus, but they’ll be less bothered by it. When TRT is successful, patients will also perceive their tinnitus is present for less time than they previously noticed it.

How does a tinnitus masker work?

Tinnitus masking is based on the premise that sufferers are most bothered in quiet or silent settings, like going to bed at night. Tinnitus maskers are available as wearable, or non-wearable. Wearable devices sit inside the ear canal and emit a comforting sound (often a “shhh” or similar white noise) to take your focus off the unpleasant tinnitus noises. Different devices offer the ability to either completely mask the sound, or just blend the unwanted sound to a level that’s more pleasant.

Tinnitus maskers are also available in a ‘table top’ format, and can be beneficial when placed near the bed to aid in getting to sleep. Starkey Hearing Technologies, which manufactures our Multiflex Tinnitus Technology products, has released a tinnitus relief app, which operates as tinnitus masker. Relax is available on iPhone and Android devices and includes 12 customisable relief sounds including crackling fire, rainfall and ocean waves.