Ear & Hearing
Tinnitus is experienced by patients as a noise heard in the ears (or “in the head”) which does not appear to come from an external source. In most cases, the sounds are described as a whistling, buzzing or ringing. They can range from low to high frequency.
A common misconception is that tinnitus is a disease when in fact it is a symptom of some other occurrence in the person’s auditory system. While sometimes associated with the loss of hearing, the precise cause of tinnitus often remains unclear in about 80 percent of tinnitus sufferers. In the remaining 20 percent, the tinnitus may stem from ear infections, trauma to the ear drums, abnormal blood vessels or even nose and ear cancers.
The options in the management of tinnitus includes sound therapy, medications and counselling.
With sound therapy, patients are taught to use sound-enriched environments to help distract them from the noise in their ears. Steps may range from avoiding quiet spaces to turning on the radio or using prescribed sound generating devices to produce noises which harmonise with the patient’s own tinnitus sound. Counselling is an important component of tinnitus treatment. By learning about tinnitus and the treatment strategies, patients come to understand that they can live with tinnitus. No single form of management is “100 percent effective” and patients may have to try different approaches to find what works for them.