What Is Tinnitus?

“A spider’s web is hidden in one ear, and in the other, a cricket sings throughout the night.”
This is how Michelangelo described his experience with hearing loss and tinnitus, and no wonder he resorted to metaphors in his description. Tinnitus can be hard to explain to people.

Tinnitus is known to many as a “ringing in the ears.” While most people experience this as a phantom tone with a consistent high pitch that seems to come and go, others may hear a buzzing, screeching, hissing or roaring sound. When we say it is a “phantom” sound, that means it cannot be heard by anyone else; it exists somewhere in a person’s auditory pathways. It may be the same in both ears or, more often, will be slightly different from one ear to the other.

Tinnitus itself is not a disease or disorder but a symptom, and there seem to be a number of problems in the body that can lead to the development of tinnitus. According to the literature, some common causes may include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Ear infection or ear canal blockage
  • Head or neck injuries
  • Medications

Tinnitus affects people differently. Some people are not bothered by it while for others, it can significantly affect their quality of life. Some people with tinnitus may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Stress
  • Sleep problems
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Depression
  • Anxiety and irritability
  • Headaches
  • Problems with work and family life

What Do I Do When I Have Tinnitus?

If you have developed tinnitus, the first thing to do is to visit your doctor. They will be able to determine if there is a simple cause. They may refer you to a specialist.

Most cases of tinnitus, however, do not have an immediately identifiable cause, and it is most common that a cause is never found. The best course of action for most people is to find ways to make tinnitus have less of an impact on their lives, and to allow them to live comfortably without it “driving them crazy”.

90% of people with tinnitus also have some type of hearing loss, and it is worth getting a hearing test if you have tinnitus.

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Sometimes tinnitus will subside on its own. Most of the time, tinnitus will not simply go away, but there are a number of ways to mitigate its effects and reduce its impact on your life.

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) - Usually administered at a specialized medical center for the treatment of tinnitus, TRT incorporates counseling together with sound masking. Some studies have suggested that TRT may help people notice their tinnitus less and feel less bothered by it, when administered over a significant length of time.
Tinnitus Masking - One of the most useful tools for immediate relief from tinnitus is masking. Using barely perceptible white noise or other continuous sounds, our brain unconsciously focuses away from the tinnitus.
Listening to Nature - Listening to YouTube sounds imitating nature such as water flowing, birds chirping, leaves blowing, or a combination of these sounds, have also been found to relieve stress for some tinnitus sufferers. This can be especially useful for short periods of time, for example at bedtime or when working quietly.

Tinnitus Relief Through Phonak Hearing Aids

Hearing Aid Amplification
If your tinnitus is accompanied by hearing loss, hearing aids are an excellent tool in dealing with tinnitus, not to mention improving your hearing ability. Many people have reported that by amplifying the hearing frequencies which are impaired, this has the effect of relieving the symptoms of tinnitus. Therefore, for some people with hearing loss, the simple gesture of wearing hearing aids may significantly relieve their tinnitus symptoms.

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Hearing Aid Streaming
With Phonak hearing aids, the Bluetooth functionality allows tinnitus sufferers to stream soft music or sounds of nature directly to the hearing aids, for relief when tinnitus is particularly bothersome. This can be done discreetly, without bothering people in the immediate vicinity of the hearing aid wearer.

Hearing Aid Masking
Phonak hearing aids also offer a masking solution that can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch. Masking can take the form of varying amplifications of white noise, pink noise or other noise sources, depending on their success in relieving tinnitus symptoms.

In an internal study from 2014, Phonak’s tinnitus masking technology was found overwhelmingly to be of assistance to those who wore their hearing aids. After three months with the technology, 80% of subjects reported feeling better about their tinnitus than they did when the study began.

If you are dealing with tinnitus and/or hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test today and find out what hearing aids can do for you.