Tinnitus is a common condition that affects 1 in 10 people in the UK, predominantly people over the age of 65. It can be caused by several factors, and causes an irritating sound.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a condition that makes you hear sounds from inside your own body, rather than an outside source. Some cases of tinnitus cause the sound to only be heard in one ear, while other cause the sound to be heard from both ears.  The sounds that you hear vary, but could include ringing, whistling or buzzing. These are some of the common sounds, but in more rare cases, people hear noises similar to music, or even a sound that beats in time with their pulse.

In most cases, tinnitus isn’t severe, and is just an irritation. Out of the 10% of people who suffer from this in the UK, only 1% have said that it has had a major influence on the quality of their life. This 1% have said that it has drastically effected their sleeping or their general daily life. Some have claimed that their work performance has deteriorated because of this, and others believe that tinnitus is the reason that their personal relationships have suffered.

What are the causes of Tinnitus?

Tinnitus can be caused by a variety of factors, but generally, it is the elderly that are the most impacted. The condition of the cochlea (part of the inner ear) often declines with age, and this is a common cause for tinnitus. The function of the cochlea is to transmit sound signals from the outer ear through to the brain, but if the cochlea is damaged, no information will be sent to the brain. However, the brain will still seek any sound information from the functioning parts of the cochlea. This can cause tinnitus, as the brain will ‘over-represent’ the signals, and cause the ‘ring’ or the ‘buzz’ that people with tinnitus often hear.

However, damage to the cochlea isn’t the only cause of tinnitus, nor is it exclusively the elderly who suffer from it. Another common cause that anyone can be effected by is the buildup of wax in the ear, which therefore blocks the auditory nerve.

A bang to the head can also cause tinnitus to develop. This is especially common in younger boys who may fall from a bike or take knocks to the head while playing sports. Other causes are neck and jaw problems, high blood pressure, or other conditions such as Ménière’s disease.

How to treat Tinnitus

It depends on the cause of your tinnitus as to how you treat it, but it won’t be healed instantly. If it is obvious that earwax is the cause of tinnitus, then eardrops could be used as a cure. However, most of the time it is hard to determine why tinnitus has developed, which therefore makes it tricky to heal. Below are some possible solutions that can be used to treat tinnitus.

  • One option is to make use of masking devices or white noise machines to replace the tinnitus ‘ring’, Tinnitus is at its worst when it is silent, so using these devices will fill the silence and take your attention away from the sound that the tinnitus is producing.
  • Consider going to therapy sessions –
    • Tinnitus Retaining Therapy (TRT) focuses on retraining the way your brain responds to tinnitus. The therapy teaches you to ignore the sound so that you become less aware of it.
    • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that your thoughts affect the way you behave. So, an example of this therapy applying to tinnitus is changing the way you perceive tinnitus, so that you are able to accept the noises, and become less noticeable of them.
  • If you think tinnitus is causing hearing loss, visit a specialist and have a hearing test. They will advise you with the appropriate solution, which could come in the form of a hearing aid.
  • Although it might not cure the condition, there are several techniques and exercises that can help you manage tinnitus. For example, listening to music can help you relax, and taking part in your hobbies and interests could distract you from the irritating noise in your ear.

Should I visit my doctor?

We highly recommend that you get your ears checked out by an audiologist if are struggling with your hearing. Book a free consultation with Hearing Solutions UK today to visit a specialist.

If you would like to learn more, speak to one of our friendly team on 0800 810 8050.

Read more: Sensorineural Hearing Loss