With an estimated one in every three Australians likely to suffer from tinnitus at some stage in their life*, it’s one of the most common – and frustrating – ear health issues.
Tinnitus is a condition experienced as noise in the ears or head, that may sound like ringing, whistling, humming or hissing. For some this noise won’t bother them at all, while for others it can quickly impact quality of life and day-to-day functioning.
There are many reasons why people may experience tinnitus. While there is no ‘cure’, Hear and Say's Head of Audiology, Julie Decker said there were things that could be done, and that the underlying cause should be investigated and addressed where possible.
“Many people will notice their tinnitus more in quiet situations, or early mornings or later at night, and often aren’t affected during the busy distractions of their day. Tinnitus works on a very psychological loop – the more you think about it, the more it can annoy you or interfere with your life, meaning the more we think about it again,” said Julie.
Having seen hundreds of patients suffering from this often-frustrating condition, Julie noted it was important to address tinnitus in a holistic way – tackling the underlying cause but also considering factors such as fatigue and stress. As tinnitus is most often a sign of hearing loss, Julie said addressing the hearing loss was also important.
“You typically will experience/hear tinnitus at the pitch of your hearing loss, so for most people when we support the hearing loss with amplification – you are then hearing more sounds in your environment – and you can receive some relief from the tinnitus,” said Julie.
“Most hearing aids also have ‘tinnitus masking’ technology, which is individually modifiable for each person to meet their needs, and potentially provide tinnitus relief. There are also many smartphone apps now available relating to tinnitus management, that can work either in combination with hearing aids or independently if someone doesn’t have a hearing loss.”
* Healthdirect Australia, 2018