A constant sound in your head or ears like ringing or humming is likely to mean that you have tinnitus. 

While it’s rarely a sign of a serious health problem, that doesn’t stop it from being incredibly irritating and even distressing for some people. Tinnitus can impact on every aspect of your life and stop you from being able to do the things you would normally take for granted such as conversing with others, sleeping, concentrating and even being able to remember important things.

Is there a treatment for tinnitus? While tinnitus can have huge implications for your quality of life, there are treatments that can help by either minimising symptoms or even eliminating tinnitus sounds altogether.

Understanding tinnitus

So, what is tinnitus and what does it sound like?

Tinnitus isn’t an illness or condition in itself. It’s a symptom of some underlying condition that has been generated in your body’s auditory system. The sound can vary from person to person. For some people, it can sound like hissing, buzzing, ringing or whistling, while for others it can be more like a pulsating sensation that can follow the rhythm of their heartbeat. There is no external source to the tinnitus sounds and it can only be heard by the individual affected.

Causes of tinnitus

The first step in finding an effective tinnitus treatment is finding out what is causing your tinnitus symptoms. It can be hard to identify the precise cause of tinnitus, but some potential causes of tinnitus include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Ear wax build-up
  • Ménière's disease
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Head, neck or ear injury
  • Reactions to certain medicines

The underlying cause of your tinnitus will influence how to treat tinnitus in your specific case.

How do you treat tinnitus?

If you are experiencing tinnitus symptoms and wondering can tinnitus be treated, fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options that may not cure the problem but can certainly help to minimise the symptoms. Possible tinnitus treatments can include:

Tinnitus sound therapy

Sound therapy uses external noises to help mask the disturbing tinnitus sounds. This could be specialised ear masking noises, white noise, low-level music or you can create your own customised sound. Listening to different sounds can make it easier to divert your attention away from the tinnitus sounds.

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT)

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) helps you to cope with your tinnitus symptoms while teaching your brain to ignore it. TRT combines:

  • Using a device worn behind the ear to produce noise to help divert your attention from the tinnitus
  • Psychological therapy that uses deep relaxation and stress management exercises to help eliminate your anxiety so that you can focus on other things away from the tinnitus

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a form of counselling that can help you if you are struggling with ear sounds caused by tinnitus which are making you feel anxious. CBT helps you to understand your thought processes associated with the tinnitus so you can work on making your thoughts more positive. CBT can be used on its own or combined with TRT to help you with tuning out the internal tinnitus sounds.

Hearing aids

It’s common for people to develop tinnitus as a result of hearing loss. When you lose some of your hearing, your brain changes the way it processes sound frequencies. Hearing aids for tinnitus will amplify external sounds to improve your hearing while also masking the tinnitus sounds so your brain can just focus on the external noises and not your tinnitus.

Relaxation

Tinnitus can be very frustrating and even distressing to experience and the symptoms can be made considerably worse by stress. Being able to relax properly by working on your breathing is one of the best tinnitus treatments. Some people find yoga, meditation, and tai chi particularly helpful.

Tinnitus can be extremely frustrating to live with but while there is no cure, there are ways you can manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Schedule a consultation with your hearing care professional to help you find the best treatment option and an effective coping strategy for you.

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