Ana Isabel Morte Verón, Audiology Assistant and student of SAERA.
Tinnitus is a perceptive phenomenon that consists on noticing blows or sounds in one ear or in both, which do not come from any external source, that is, they are noises or sounds that only the person with tinnitus can hear.
Tinnitus can be originated by different causes:
- For hearing loss
- Ménière´s Syndrome
- Various trauma
These internal sounds can be: Hissing, buzzing, bells, being constant or intermittent, and even they may vary in intensity:
- They can be almost imperceptible; we hear them but it does not hinder us to do our daily activity.
- They can be so intense that we find very difficult to concentrate on a specific task, to be able to follow a conversation, etc.
How does it originate?
In stress periods the patient will notice that the tinnitus increases in intensity.
The most common tinnitus is the one caused by acoustic trauma, usually generated by an increase of sound at high frequencies.
Intense noises can damage the cells of the inner ear and the acoustic nerve. The physiological limit accepted by the ear is 85 dB, and the risk of loss will be greater the longer it is exposed to higher values.
The appearance of tinnitus by sonorous trauma is gradual or intermittent in its early stages. The longer we are exposed to a sound over 85 dB the greater is the risk to suffer from tinnitus.
After the exposure to loud noise, tinnitus is at first perceived for a short period of time and with little intensity. However, if there is no further exposure to noise, tinnitus disappears after a short period of time. If the exposure is not withdrawn, the intensity of tinnitus will increase.
There is also tinnitus due to head and neck trauma. The patients suffering tinnitus due to this cause usually go to the doctor sooner, since the sounds appear suddenly and severely, they usually have more problems to sleep, concentrate, relax, etc. In stress periods the patient will notice that the tinnitus increases in intensity.
Tinnitus due to hearing loss is noticed when the patient start to lose hearing.
Another cause of tinnitus is the Ménière´s disease an internal ear disorder with symptoms such as spontaneous episodes of vertigo, hearing loss and tinnitus. These symptoms result from an excess of endolymph that distorts the membranous labyrinth.
This disease has no cure, there is a treatment aimed at preventing and reducing symptoms, which is achieved in most cases with pharmacological and dietary treatments.
Once the tinnitus appears, it very rarely disappears; the patient will probably live with it all the time.
The most effective solution is the placement of hearing aids (especially when there is hearing loss). We need to assess the tinnitus, that is to say, to determine in which frequency or frequencies is found, and once identified we will proceed to program the hearing aids. Obviously we must have undertaken the relevant tests such as otoscopy, impedanciometry, verbal or tonal audiometries for a complete anamnesis.
The tinnitus will not just disappear, yet we can get to hear it lower. The sounds are there, but without bothering us and even to be able to hear the sounds, we need to look for them.
Some people barely notice the tinnitus, however they look for it and this is a mistake since the more we seek it the stronger we will hear it and we will not get to ignore it. We need to reach the point in which we notice the sounds but it does not bother us. If we get that for most of the time we will relax, and the calmer we are, the less we will perceive the tinnitus. We have to try to take control of our tinnitus, hear it when we want, that’s the goal.
There are also different therapies that can be helpful, such as:
- Sound therapy: Avoid silence so we can hear our tinnitus in a non-annoying way
- Group therapy: Meeting other people with the same problem and sharing our experiences will help us accept our tinnitus and reduce the emotional impact.
There are more options, but it is important, before making any decision, to consult with a specialist, he/she can advise us about which treatment will suit us better, since neither all cases nor the results are the same.