Tinnitus: Ringing in the ears and what to do about it

tinnitus, chronic tinnitus, tinnitus treatment,

By Dr Soniya Gupta

We all must have felt ringing in the ears once or twice but the sensation of hearing ringing, hissing, buzzing, whistling, chirping or other sounds is called Tinnitus. There could be no sound in the environment but the person might hear the noise. It gets worse when background noise is low. Many of them experience it at night when they are trying to sleep in a quiet room. In rare cases, the sound might seem to sync with the heartbeat. Tinnitus is very common and has affected approximately 50 million adults in the United States. For many, the condition is an annoyance as it could be in one ear or both ear. There are times when a patient might complain about perception in centre of head or back of the head. Tinnitus can also have adverse effects on their daily lifestyle. The consistency of the condition results in lack of sleep, headache, dizziness, unable to concentrate on work, noise irritation, hyperacusis, depression, etc.

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Tinnitus is often linked to hearing loss but it actually doesn’t cause loss nor does hearing loss cause tinnitus. In some cases, people with the tinnitus condition do not face any difficulty in hearing while in a few cases, the patient become acutely sensitive to sound for which they have to take steps to muffle or mask the external sounds.

What causes tinnitus?

The most common cause of tinnitus condition is the prolonged exposure to loud sounds. About 90% of people with tinnitus have some level of noise-induced hearing loss. Such sounds cause permanent damage to sound-sensitive cells of the cochlea (a spiral-shaped organ in the inner ear).

There are a variety of conditions and illness that can cause tinnitus:

  • Continuous exposure to loud music by earphones or hearing loss Frequent air travel
  • The buildup or loss of wax, an ear infection blocks the ear. In worse situations, a benign tumour of a nerve can be the cause
  • Tinnitus is cited as a side effect of several antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, sedatives etc.
  • Medical conditions such as sinusitis, irregular blood pressure, diabetes etc.

  • What to do for tinnitus?

    There are several treatments available which can make tinnitus less bothersome. Patients need to go through several treatments as one treatment might not work. Trying several combinations of techniques will help in understanding which is better for the patient. The effective approaches include the combination of behavioural strategies and sound-generating devices. It includes:

    Neuromodulation Therapy: With the use of latest technology called as Neuromodulation Therapeutic devices such as Tinnitusrelief, patients get instant relief as this innovative therapy takes up 20 minutes two to three times a day. Neuromodulation Therapy has a success rate of 90 to 95 per cent. Within few days of treatment, patients can observe the improvement in headache, dizziness, hyperacusis, heaviness etc. Sounds start to decrease and improve patient’s listening.

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: In this therapy, cognitive restructuring and relaxation techniques are used for changing the way patients think and respond to tinnitus. It is a short-term therapy. Tinnitus Retraining Therapy: The main components of therapy include individual counselling and sound therapy. Also, a device is inserted in the patient’s ear which produces low-level noise and environmental sounds matching with the volume, pitch and quality of patient’s tinnitus.

    Masking: There are masking devices which are worn like hearing aids and produces low-level white noise. It reduces tinnitus perception and also produces residual inhibition. Depending upon the tinnitus type, symptoms will come and go with time. Factors like diet, stress level and noise exposure can worsen the condition. Many people find tinnitus annoying but learn to adapt it without any difficulty.

    (The author is Co-Founder- Drspectra - Audiologist and Speech Therapist. Views expressed are personal.)