What is tinnitus/hyperacusis?
Tinnitus is the name used to describe noises heard in the ear(s) or in the head that are not heard by others.
Hyperacusis is oversensitivity to certain sounds in the environment.
Tinnitus can take the form of many noises including ringing, buzzing, whistling, hissing or even musical sounds and tunes. It can vary in loudness and be either intermittent or constant.
Tinnitus is not an illness or disease, it is a symptom generated somewhere in the person’s hearing (auditory) pathway. Typical causes of tinnitus include: noise exposure, ear diseases (i.e. Meniere’s disease), certain medications, hearing loss, unknown causes.
Who does it affect?
Most people experience some occasional tinnitus. About 10% of people experience frequent tinnitus and up to 5% of adults in the UK experience constant or bothersome tinnitus.
Chronic tinnitus can impact on all areas of life including:
- affecting sleep,
- affecting concentration,
- affecting ability to understand speech and communicate effectively,
- affecting roles and responsibilities both at home and in the workplace,
- affecting ability to relax and enjoyment,
- affecting mood and emotional wellbeing (i.e. becoming stressed, depressed or frustrated).
What help is available?
Tinnitus management usually combines counselling (for information and/or to help the individual accept and handle their tinnitus) with some sound stimulation (to provide times when the tinnitus is less obvious or bothersome). Relaxation is also recommended as tinnitus is often more noticeable when an individual is tired or stressed. Promoting good sleep also forms part of tinnitus management. For individuals with a hearing loss, a hearing aid may be beneficial as being able to hear more everyday sounds gives the brain more to focus on than just the tinnitus.