If you’ve ever stepped out of a concert and have had a ringing or buzzing in your ears, you’ve heard a sound similar to the sound people with tinnitus experience. With tinnitus, only the person can hear the sound that is being produced. It’s common for people with this condition to hear sounds like whooshing, crickets, hissing, or clicking. The condition is often associated with hearing loss from excessive noise exposure, ear disease, damage to middle or inner ear, head, neck or brain injuries, or stress. Hearing loss due to aging (known technically as presbycusis) is another common cause of tinnitus. You may not notice a change in hearing as it happens so gradually, but tinnitus can be the warning sign that it is there.
If you or someone you love believes they have tinnitus, read on as we outline everything you need to know.
What to Do First
If you are having symptoms of tinnitus then you should get a hearing test done with an audiologist right away. An audiologist can assess factors like case history and ear health and perform tests of hearing acuity and speech understanding to zero in on the issue.
Ways to Reduce the Symptoms
For most people with tinnitus, there is no cure. The repetitive sounds one hears can be both uncomfortable and frustrating, but you can learn to tune out the sounds. To help reduce symptoms, you can:
Avoid loud sound exposure, such as areas with loud music, and turn down the volume on your devices.
Use a white noise machine at night, as silence can make the symptoms more noticeable.
If you have a stressful work environment, take the time to relax through meditation or deep breathing exercise to help you enter a more tranquil mind frame.
Pump up your intake of vitamin B, magnesium, and zinc – these have been shown to help reduce tinnitus symptoms.
If it is presbycusis, hearing aids are shown to help.
Tinnitus “maskers” can be integrated into hearing aids to distract from the ringing sound.
There are a couple of different treatment methods your audiologist may recommend for that can help decrease the overall awareness of tinnitus. One popular method is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT, which is used to teach patients to change their negative way of thinking about tinnitus to help them reduce any feelings of anguish or distress. There is also Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), a program that involves counselling and sound therapy to help reduce the brain's ability to detect tinnitus.
For those seeking a more customized approach, there is Progressive Tinnitus Management or PMT, a specialized care program based on the patient’s level of tinnitus. For some patients, Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction or MSBR course is a useful program that teaches you how to live in the moment and change how you respond to what is happening to and around you.
If you or someone you know is showing signs of tinnitus, schedule a consultation with an audiologist. The earlier you address hearing damage, the more likely you are to avoid future symptoms.