What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus can sound like an angry ocean to some people

Tinnitus can sound like an angry ocean to some people

Tinnitus is the experience of hearing noise in one or both of your ears when there is no external source of the sound. It is very common, with 18% of Australians experiencing tinnitus at some stage in their lives.

People often describe tinnitus as ringing in their ears or a buzzing noise. To some, it even sounds like crickets or the ocean. It might sound like this to you, or it might sound like something else – everyone experiences tinnitus differently.

Tinnitus can be constant or it can come and go. Often, tinnitus is worse at night, right before you go to sleep, or when you are in a quiet place.

Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease, and it can be a sign of other health problems.

It is essential to treat tinnitus when it becomes annoying or bothersome, especially if it is impacting your day to day life. Most tinnitus can be treated successfully with the help of a trained audiologist. Hearing and Audiology have two tinnitus specialists, practising in Perth and Geraldton, who are expertly trained in the diagnosis and treatment of tinnitus. For more information on tinnitus assessments see our Tinnitus Assessment page.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is caused when there is something wrong with how you are hearing. This can be a problem with how your ears are capturing, transforming or transmitting sound to your brain, or when your brain is not interpreting these messages correctly. For more information on how we hear, navigate to our Hearing Loss page.

When sounds are not being processed correctly, it is possible for parts of your ear or brain to be too easily triggered, causing a message of sound to occur when there is no actual source of sound. This is tinnitus. The reason it is often worse in quiet is that there are no other signals to interfere with the incorrect messages being sent, making them more obvious.

Tinnitus can be caused by many different things. Anything that interferes with how you hear can cause tinnitus.

Noise exposure is the most common cause of tinnitus. Image by Ben Husmann

Noise exposure is the most common cause of tinnitus. Image by Ben Husmann

The causes of tinnitus are separated into 3 main areas:

  • Pre-cochlea, which means anything disrupting your hearing before your inner ear
  • Cochlea, which means anything disrupting your hearing in your inner ear
  • Retro-cochlea, which means anything disrupting your hearing after your inner ear (including problems processing sound in your brain)

Common Pre-cochlea Causes of Tinnitus include:

Common Cochlea Causes of Tinnitus include:

  • Noise exposure – loud noises can damage the little hairs in your inner ear, causing tinnitus. This is the most common cause of tinnitus.
  • Damage to the hairs in your inner ear due to age, smoking or poor blood supply (cardiovascular disease and diabetes can cause tinnitus)
  • Medications – certain medications can cause tinnitus
  • Meniere’s disease – tinnitus can be a sign of Meniere’s disease

Less Common but Serious Retro-cochlea Causes of Tinnitus include:

  • Tumours – a tumour growing on the acoustic nerve or in the brain can cause tinnitus. This is unusual but important to rule out.
  • Damage to the cochlea or acoustic nerves
  • Strokes

There are many more causes of tinnitus not listed here as well. It is important that you see an audiologist who specialises in tinnitus so they can assess you properly and diagnose what is causing your tinnitus.

Is There a Treatment for Tinnitus?

Diagnosing and treating tinnitus can be complex, but a specialist audiologist will be able to ask you the right questions to rule out any more serious causes and form an effective treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

Consult Hearing and Audiology in Perth or Geraldton for your tinnitus assessment and help alleviate the bothersome sounds in your ears.

What to do next:

To find out what a tinnitus assessment with Hearing and Audiology involves click here.

To find out more about our tinnitus specialists click here.

For information on tinnitus treatments click here.

Book an Appointment Today

For more information about our hearing healthcare services, please call (08) 9388 8003 or book online using the form below. We conduct hearing tests at our Perth based clinics, located in Subiaco and Duncraig, as well as at our Geraldton clinic.

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