What’s that sound?

It doesn’t matter what age you are – if you suffer from buzzing, ringing, whistling, hissing, pulsing, roaring or cicada-like sounds in your ears or head, it could be tinnitus which is prevalent among older people and can be the first sign of an age-related hearing loss.

In Australia, between 17% – and 20% of people suffer some degree of tinnitus. Tinnitus usually lasts for a short period of time after exposure to loud music or noise, however if you are stressed or tired tinnitus can be more persistent.
Although psychological or emotional problems may also be associated with tinnitus, family and friends may have trouble understanding tinnitus because they cannot see or hear it themselves. 
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not a disease; it is a symptom that can be caused by allergies, tumours, diabetes, diet, thyroid problems, circulatory changes and stress and it usually indicates some form of malfunction or damage to the hearing mechanism. The most common causes of tinnitus are:

  • Hearing loss
    Although tinnitus does not cause hearing loss, many people with hearing loss suffer from tinnitus while others may experience tinnitus even if they do not have hearing loss. 
  • Noise trauma
    Damage to the inner ear from exposure to very loud sounds such as shooting, chainsaws, aircraft engines or excessively amplified music is the most common cause of tinnitus.
  • Physical injury
    A blow to the head or changes in barometric pressure during air travel or diving can cause the onset of tinnitus.
  • Ear diseases or infection
    Otosclerosis (immobilisation of the small bones in the middle ear) and Meniere’s disease (a build-up of fluid in the inner ear) can cause tinnitus.

What can I do?
If you think you are experiencing tinnitus, it is important that you consult an ear, nose and throat specialist to investigate the cause. An audiologist/audiometrist can assess your hearing and provide more information about tinnitus. To lessen the severity of tinnitus, you could try the following:

  • Avoid loud noises or wear ear protection if practicable.
  • Stress and fatigue will worsen the condition so make time for adequate sleep and relaxation.
  • Medication such as anti-inflammatory drugs, quinine and aspirin can have side effects such as tinnitus and if you are on any medication, check with your doctor.
  • Lowering salt intake and eating a balanced diet is beneficial.
  • Improve your circulation with daily exercise
  • Check your blood pressure and take measures to lower it if necessary.
  • Avoid nicotine, alcohol and other drugs as they will aggravate the condition
  • Coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolate contain caffeine so try to eliminate these from your diet for a one-month trial period to determine whether caffeine is having an adverse effect on you.

What’s next?
Hearing aids can be beneficial and provide relief when hearing loss and tinnitus are present together. Hearing aids amplify environmental sounds that can make tinnitus less noticeable as well as reduce stress and tiredness that is associated with the strain of trying to hear.
A tinnitus instrument is a combination of a hearing aid and a sounds generator that may provide relief for people with hearing loss and tinnitus. As individuals respond differently, a trial period is essential.
bloom™ hearing specialists offer free hearing checks and 7-day hearing aid trials. With the latest technology, personalised client care and services for eligible pensioners, bloom™ hearing specialists help you on the best way to better hearing. For more information, call 1800 777 659 or find your nearest clinic at www.bloomhearing.com.au

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