What is Tinnitus and How to Avoid It?

What is Tinnitus and How to Avoid It?

What is Tinnitus and How to Avoid It

Ever experienced a ringing in your ears that won’t go away? Then you might have had a case of tinnitus. Tinnitus is the perception of sound when there is no external sound present. The sound is most often described as a ringing, buzzing, humming, or cicada-like sound. Less often, tinnitus can also be described as a pulsating sound which may be in time with your heartbeat. Tinnitus may be constant or intermittent, it may be louder at certain times of days compared to others, and it may be present in one ear, both ears, or perceived more in the middle of the head.

According to the Mayo Clinic, tinnitus affects 15% to 20% of people in the world. The sound you hear can vary from a mere non-bothersome whisper to a louder, more disturbing sound. If it becomes anything more than an occasional annoyance, contact your audiologist for an in-depth diagnostic assessment and to discuss treatment options.

Knowing how to avoid and treat tinnitus is just a matter of knowing what causes or worsens your tinnitus. There is no one definitive cause of tinnitus, but below are the most common causes:

#1 – Hearing Loss

Up to 90% of people with tinnitus have some form of noise-induced hearing loss. The hair cells in the inner ear become damaged, causing the brain to strain to hear sounds. To compensate for the lack of sound when hearing loss is present, the brain internally amplifies its own neural system which can result in tinnitus. This can be likened to a speaker turned on to full volume, with no music playing. For people with tinnitus, correcting the underlying hearing loss is the most important thing that can be done. Hearing devices are designed to amplify external sounds to help mask internal, ringing or buzzing sounds.

#2 – Wax Buildup

Blockages in your ear canal such as ear wax, dirt, water, or other foreign materials can affect your hearing. These blockages can cause tinnitus. Rather than using a cotton bud, it’s best to have the wax professionally removed by your Audiologist or doctor, either through microsuction (most advisable and safest option) or syringing.

#3 – Prolonged Exposure to Loud Sounds

Prolonged Exposure to Loud Sounds

Prolonged Exposure to Loud Sounds

One of the most common causes of tinnitus is prolonged exposure to loud sounds. People whose jobs put them at risk like DJs, rock musicians, sound technicians, builders, street repair workers, and pilots often suffer from tinnitus. Loud sounds can either temporarily or permanently damage the hair cells in your ears. When these hairs are damaged, they can send random sound signals to your brain which causes the ringing or hissing noise that you hear.

Left unprevented and untreated, constant exposure to blaring noises can lead to hearing loss. Avoid or dampen further exposure to these noises by using protectors such as earplugs or earmuffs. These are available as a custom-made product at Hearing & Audiology. For music enthusiasts, know how loud is too loud and enjoy sound responsibly.

#4 – An Ear Infection

An ear infection causes a fluid buildup in your middle ear that can trigger tinnitus. This often happens as a consequence of a cold, throat infection, or allergy attack. When the underlying cause has been treated, the tinnitus should subside in a few days.

#5 – Head and Neck Injuries

Because it’s all connected, a head or neck injury can also affect your hearing. Normally, tinnitus caused by these kinds of injuries is only present in one ear. If injury-caused tinnitus affects your quality of life, consider consulting with a professional for tinnitus management. At Hearing and Audiology, we can help create a treatment plan to help alleviate or lessen your tinnitus.

#6 – Medications

Medications

Medications

Certain drugs can have tinnitus as a side effect. These include aspirins, antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antidepressants, certain cancer drugs, and loop diuretics among others. If they are truly the culprit, the tinnitus should cease once you stop taking these medications. If you are taking any of these as a maintenance drug and the tinnitus becomes unbearable, consider consulting with your doctor to prescribe a different drug.

#7 – Natural Aging

As we age, the cochlea (spiral shaped organ in the inner ear involved in hearing) starts to deteriorate and this is what leads to age-related hearing loss. Treating hearing loss is the most important and effective way to treat tinnitus caused by age-related hearing loss. This can be done through the use of hearing devices, which are fully subsidised for eligible pensioners and veterans. If tinnitus impacts your quality of life, using hearing aids can help mask the ringing sound by increasing your ability to hear external sounds around you.

While some people learn to live with their tinnitus, it affects every person differently. We understand that living with a constant ringing sound can be frustrating, and can cause insomnia, stress, and anxiety. When your tinnitus impacts your way of life negatively, we can help you manage the condition with an individualized treatment plan. Call us on 9388 8003 or visit our website to request an appointment now.

Best Hearing Loss and Tinnitus Apps For Your Ears

Best Hearing Loss and Tinnitus Apps For Your Ears

Did you know one of your best tools for dealing with hearing loss and tinnitus is probably less than a metre away? Yep – it’s your smartphone. There are hundreds of apps that are designed to enhance hearing, provide additional capabilities, or deliver relief and many of them are either free or only cost a few dollars.

With so many to choose from it’s tough to find the right app – so we’ve done the hard work for you. Below you’ll find our top picks in three categories – Hearing Enhancements, Tinnitus Relief, and Helpful Tools.

Please note: Hearing loss apps and other software are an addition to, not a replacement for, a traditional diagnosis and treatment. If you are experiencing hearing loss or other symptoms, we strongly recommend you visit your local hearing specialist.

Our Recommended Hearing Enhancement App: Petralex

Petralex is a free app which enables you to use your smartphone as a hearing aid. There are many other apps that offer similar functionality, but Petralex is a step ahead. We don’t recommend you ditch your hearing aid just yet, but this app works as a great alternative if you’ve run out of batteries or don’t wear a hearing aid and need a quick boost.

Features include:

  • 44.1 kHz sampling rate – higher than many hearing aids
  • Auto adjusts to your hearing and environment
  • Support for Bluetooth headsets

Download for free on iOS here or Android here.

Our Recommended Tinnitus Relief App: ReSound Tinnitus Relief

There are many sound therapy apps available that can help distract your brain and manage the symptoms of Tinnitus; our recommendation is ReSound Tinnitus Relief. It’s not magic: if the severity of your condition means that sound therapy is not effective then this app is unlikely to make the difference, but for everyone else this is the best option.

Features include:

  • Layer up combinations of multiple sounds
  • Adjust balance between ears
  • Includes guided meditation, deep breathing, and other activities designed to distract from Tinnitus.
  • Stream sound to your hearing aid (if you have one)

ReSound Tinnitus Relief costs US$6.99 per month or US$69.99 per year. It is available on iOS here and Android here.

Our Recommended Helpful Tool: Sound Alert

Sound Alert isn’t cheap, but it is clever. The app enables your smartphone to detect certain sounds – such as your smoke alarm – and alert you either through your smartphone or another compatible device. The app comes with some standard sounds pre-installed (mainly smoke and CO alarms), but you can also customize with specific sounds you want alerts for.

Features include:

  • Phone vibration and flashing light to alert you
  • Compatible with Pebble watch and compatible alert products (including Bellman and Geemarc products)
  • Programme 10 custom sounds

Sound Alert is available on iOS here and Android here.

Special Mention: Hearing Aid Apps

Did you know that most hearing aids now have apps that work with them? Features vary by manufacturer but usually include battery monitoring, the ability to adjust settings, including volume, using your phone, and create and switch between multiple programs. Some also enable wireless streaming.

Do you need to visit a hearing specialist? Hearing And Audiology are independent hearing specialists with more than 30 years’ experience. Contact us online today or call (08) 9388 8003 – no referral required.

Effective Methods to Manage Tinnitus

Effective Methods to Manage Tinnitus

In line with Tinnitus Awareness week, we prepare one of the best articles about Tinnitus which we believe will help so many people all over Western Australia and even all throughout the world.

Effective Methods to Manage Tinnitus

Effective Methods to Manage Tinnitus

What is Tinnitus?

Have you experienced hearing that constant ringing, buzzing, hissing, or even a roaring sound? That is Tinnitus.

Why Tinnitus Occurs?

Based on recent studies, approximately 30 percent of the stellar population will go through tinnitus in their generation – and one in ten grownup individuals are suffering from chronic tinnitus which can bring an enormous impact on their lives. Some of the common side effects of Tinnitus include Insomnia, stress, depression, and social dysfunction. Tinnitus is not a disease and not even deadly though it has to be minimized.

No Identified Cure for Tinnitus Yet

At present, there is no approved cure for tinnitus. However there are some ways that victims can reduce its impact,” – Danielle Tres, Head of Audiology for Oticon Australia, told Gizmodo Australia.

How Music & Podcast Help Sufferers Deal with Tinnitus

“In Baby Driver film, Baby’s method of relieving tinnitus symptoms is not unusual. Numerous people suffering from tinnitus discovered that getting something else to focus on, such as music or a podcast, can shift their attention away from the tinnitus, so it turned out to be less noticeable.

Other standard methods used by adults suffering from tinnitus include – sound therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, and “several relaxation methods” (mindfulness, body scanning, yoga, and meditation) are also common.

“Sound therapy reduces the impact of tinnitus through its soothing sounds like ocean waves or white noise” – Tres clarifies.

Facts

About 80% of adults with hearing loss are also experiencing tinnitus, and 80% of those with tinnitus also have some form of hearing loss. So other than an iPod – hearing aids, here’s another idea we’d like to share.

It’s incredible how the advancement of technology has paved the way for Oticon to create the Tinnitus SoundSupport which allows the wearer to play a variety of sounds including nature or broadband, directly into their ears. These special hearing aids are very handy manageable and comforting to tinnitus sufferers.

If you are interested to learn more about tinnitus sound support, just give us a call, or you may contact us by filling in our quote form.

Tinnitus – What It Is and How to Treat It

Woman with ear pain

Tinnitus is a physical health condition where you experience ringing in the ears or other noises without any external sound being present. It is a symptom that describes a fault in the hearing system, rather than a disease in itself.

Studies suggest that up to 18 per cent of Australian suffer from tinnitus. For most sufferers, it is a mild and manageable condition, with as little as one per cent of sufferers reporting a dramatic effect on their quality of life.

Sounds Associated with Tinnitus

Here is some of the sounds tinnitus sufferers report to have experienced:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Humming
  • Whistling
  • Roaring
  • Crickets
  • Rushing wind/ Ocean sound

Causes of Tinnitus

Tinnitus can be caused by a variety of situations and conditions, and each sufferer’s symptoms are different. While some might experience constant ringing in their ears, others might experience irregular spells of it. Common causes of tinnitus include:

  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Extreme stress or trauma
  • Degeneration of hair cells in the inner ear
  • Side effects from prescription and non-prescription medications
  • Meniere’s disease (swelling of a duct in the ear)
  • Otosclerosis (overgrowth of bone in the middle ear)

Exposure to loud noise and side effects from medication are two of the major preventable causes of tinnitus. Industrial workers, transport workers, farmers and other workers surrounded by noisy tools or equipment should take necessary steps to protect their hearing at work.

People who listen to loud music often, whether it is through musical performance, through headphones or at clubs and concerts, are also at significant risk. If you’re taking medication, you should always discuss side effects with your doctor to check whether it can cause temporary tinnitus or make existing tinnitus worse.

Managing Tinnitus

Without management, tinnitus can be debilitating, causing distress, poor concentration, sleeping problems, and irritability in its early stages. Managing tinnitus involves understanding how it works, adapting to the symptoms and improving your psychological associations with them. The aim of all sufferers is to reach a point where they are used to noise made by their tinnitus so that it doesn’t adversely affect their life. Successful management of tinnitus involves accepting the condition, keeping busy, stopping worrying about it and finding relaxation and stress management strategies that work for you.

Try to think of it like moving from the country to the city. At first, you notice the extra noise, but after some time you get used to it. By maintaining a relaxed and positive attitude towards tinnitus, it can be easier than you think to manage it.

Understanding how our mind reacts to noise is the first step to managing tinnitus. When your mind first takes in sound from the environment, it classifies it as threatening (car horn), neutral (wind blowing trees) or non-threatening (familiar/friendly voice), creating an automatic reaction the next time you hear it. Tinnitus can be classified by the mind as a potentially threatening noise when it first occurs, placing the body in a state of stress. Removing negative focus and emotional meanings with the noise will reduce the effect it has on your life.

Tinnitus Treatment Options

There is no single or best treatment for tinnitus. Treating your tinnitus depends on your lifestyle, personality and the severity of the condition. Surgery and medications are rarely justified or necessary. Some simple treatment options include:

Lifestyle Changes

Keep physically and mentally active, including regular exercise and pursuing hobbies and interests. Quit smoking and reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol, as they can temporarily worsen the effects of tinnitus. Ask your doctor if there are any medications you are taking that might contribute to tinnitus and if it is possible to reduce or cease any. Do not change your medications without consulting your doctor.

Relaxation and Masking

Surround yourself with pleasant noise to keep your ears busy and mask the tinnitus. This could include playing music, keeping the television on or playing sound tapes (like rain or ocean noises) while you sleep.

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)

TRT is a therapeutic process aimed at helping you to adjust your reactions and perceptions of tinnitus. It involves retraining your auditory reflexes to block the signal for the noise tinnitus makes. TRT encompasses one-on-one counselling and regular sound therapy with sound generators.

If you would like more information about tinnitus relief and treatment, get in touch with Hearing And Audiology by calling 08 (08) 9388 8003 or enquiring online. We have more than 30 years of experience in audiology and specialise in tinnitus treatment in Perth.

What Causes Hearing Loss in One Ear?

Hearing loss in one ear is often described as unilateral hearing loss, or single-sided deafness (SSD). SSD is a type of hearing loss where there is a complete hearing loss in one ear and anything from normal hearing to profound hearing loss in the other ear.

a child covering one ear

People who suffer from SSD can often have trouble locating sounds, understanding speech, focusing on a single voice and hearing high-frequency sounds. They may also experience severe tinnitus. The causes, effects and treatments of SSD are multiple.

Causes of Hearing Loss in One Ear

There are a number of potential causes of SSD, which are likely to result in different symptoms and treatment methods. Some potential causes of SSD include:

  • Damage to the ear
  • Head trauma
  • Acoustic neuroma
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Viral or bacterial infection
  • Mastoiditis
  • Waardenburg syndrome
  • Tumours
  • Burst blood vessel in the inner ear
  • Illnesses including measles, mumps and meningitis and more

The Impact of Single-Sided Deafness

There are a number of indicators that SSD or unilateral hearing loss may be present. The most obvious effects are that the person has trouble:

  • Hearing conversation on the impaired side
  • Focussing on a single voice in a noisy environment
  • Locating where sounds are originating

These difficulties are the result of a phenomenon called “the head shadow effect”. The head shadow effect describes the effect of high-frequency sounds which cannot be perceived due to their inability to travel around the head to reach the functioning ear. The high-frequency sounds, including many sounds used in speech, are “shadowed” by the head and are lost to the person with SSD. Low-frequency sounds, however, can bend around the head to reach the functioning ear. This makes sound depth perception difficult for the brain and sounds may seem flat or muddled, like when we try to speak to someone in a noisy environment and their voice becomes lost, or when someone at the other end of the phone is in a crowded street.

In addition to the head shadow effect, SSD has a number of other symptoms, including:

  • Tinnitus
  • Dizziness or vertigo – feeling off balance
  • Headaches
  • Stress, irritability, anxiousness
  • Speaking loudly
  • Poor social and interpersonal skills
  • Poor communication skills

Treatment for SSD

While SSD is often permanent, many of the above effects of hearing loss in one ear are treatable. For tinnitus, which is often present when hearing loss occurs, special hearing tests and tinnitus treatments are available, including tinnitus retraining therapy.

To treat SSD, you will need to undergo a hearing test with an audiologist. They will assess your hearing loss and try to determine a cause before recommending a particular type of hearing aid suitable for your condition. The hearing aid should reduce the head shadow effect and may restore some of the lost sound.

If you’re experiencing hearing loss in one ear, book an appointment with the audiologists at one of Hearing And Audiology’s four locations. You can find a booking online or call us on 08 (08) 9388 8003 to discuss your symptoms.

5 Common Tinnitus Myths

5 Common Tinnitus Myths

For tens of millions of tinnitus sufferers, daily activity can be a challenge. Finding help can be frustrating. And the confusion surrounding the condition can lead to feelings of anxiety and hopelessness.

Tinnitus is often described as buzzing, ringing, hissing, humming, roaring, or whistling that someone hears in the absence of any external sound. Approximately 17 to 20 per cent of Australians suffer from some degree of tinnitus, varying from mild to severe. The percentage of people who are severely affected is small. It is common for a person’s tinnitus to be affected by stress or tiredness, but this has no harmful significance.

Some of the myths surrounding tinnitus can hinder sufferers’ attempts to get better. Separating fact from fiction is an important step for any tinnitus sufferer.

Five common tinnitus myths, and insight into the real facts behind the myths.

1. Tinnitus only affects people who’ve gone to lots of concerts and listened to loud music. While it is true that prolonged exposure to loud noises (music or other) can be one cause of tinnitus, the reality is that tinnitus has many causes – and many people develop tinnitus for no clear reason. People of any gender, age, race, background or profession can suffer from the condition. At the same time, research shows that common elements exist in all tinnitus sufferers. The key to success with treatment is choosing one that effectively addresses these commonalities.

2. Tinnitus will probably just go away on its own. Many people are afraid or embarrassed to mention the sounds to friends, family or associates – let alone seek help. They hope that the ringing will disappear. While tinnitus caused by a medication or other temporary situation may cease if that element is removed, the reality is that tinnitus does not just “go away” for most people. The sooner a sufferer seeks help from a trained audiologist, the better – and sooner – the chances for significant improvement.

3. Tinnitus is an incurable disease. Tinnitus is not a disease, but a condition that can result from a wide range of causes that include everything from exposure to loud noises and certain medication use to underlying neurological damage. While tinnitus itself is not a disease, untreated, it can cause fatigue, depression, anxiety, and problems with memory and concentration. The good news? Tinnitus is one condition that people often can manage with effective treatment.

4. Tinnitus can be cured by cutting out certain foods or other items from the diet. Over time, different foods and additives have received the blame for tinnitus. Research has proven this to be false. Eating a balanced, healthy diet, and getting plenty of exercises, can play important roles in the management of tinnitus. But they can’t “fix” tinnitus on their own.

5. There is no real help for tinnitus. This is the greatest myth of all. More research has lead to more and better treatments for tinnitus. Hearing And Audiology specialises in tinnitus can help individuals determine whether or not they have tinnitus, and if the tinnitus is mild, moderate or severe. We can advise on the best treatments. Some now-available treatments are customized to each patient’s unique hearing profile, and target the underlying auditory, attentional and emotional processes underlying the tinnitus.

Don’t put up with Tinnitus…call us today – we can help you.