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How to take control of tinnitus

At Sonova we want everyone to be able to enjoy the delight of hearing and live a life without limitations. Tinnitus is a condition that affects millions of people around the world. Tinnitus can be intrusive and difficult to live with, but it is possible to take control1.  As part of Tinnitus Awareness Week (February 7-13, 2022), we’re explaining how to get diagnosed and the options for managing tinnitus.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is one of the most common hearing problems. It’s often described as a ringing in the ears, but not everyone experiences tinnitus in the same way. Some hear a buzzing sound, others describe whistling, hissing, roaring, squawking or even crickets. Tinnitus may appear in only one ear, or both, or in the head. Tinnitus affects 10-15% of the adult population and about 20% of people who experience tinnitus will need clinical intervention.1,2

Are there different types of tinnitus? 

Subjective tinnitus is most common. This is where no-one else can hear the sound. Objective tinnitus, where the noise can be heard by others, is very rare.1,2 Tinnitus may go away after a few days, or it can become persistent. 

What causes tinnitus?

Often the cause of tinnitus is unknown. However, it has been shown that tinnitus is frequently associated with some degree of hearing loss, age, and exposure to loud noise.1 Damage from loud noises can be avoided through safe listening.

What are the effects of tinnitus?

For many people tinnitus is a minor annoyance, but it can have a significant impact on quality of life.2 Some find they can’t concentrate for long or have trouble sleeping. If untreated, tinnitus can lead to anxiety, stress and depression3,4.

What help is available?

A hearing care professional will assess the severity of tinnitus and the impact on quality of life to discuss together with the patient and other colleagues in a multidisciplinary team (e.g. ENTs) what kind of tinnitus management is suitable to increase quality of life.

How is tinnitus treated?

There’s no cure for tinnitus but it can be managed.5 Sound therapy can provide relief from tinnitus6. Sound therapy uses background noise to shift the attention away from the tinnitus so that habituation to the sound occurs. Face-to-face counseling with tinnitus experts can also help people learn to live with tinnitus7. Sonova’s Audiological Care business uses both methods as part of a holistic approach to self-management of tinnitus

What tools are there for managing tinnitus?

Modern hearing aids have a built-in feature for sound therapy and their wireless functionality allows to stream other sounds, e.g. from smartphone apps, which can help to render tinnitus sounds less noticeable.6Phonak’s Lyric in-ear hearing aid provides 24-hour amplification of external sounds even while the wearer sleeps. This constant amplification can provide relief as well as better sleep to tinnitus patients. 8,9

1Tunkel, D. E., Bauer, C. A., Sun, G. H., Rosenfeld, R. M., Chandrasekhar, S. S., Cunningham Jr, E. R., ... & Whamond, E. J. (2014). Clinical practice guideline: tinnitus. Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, 151(2_suppl), S1-S40.

2 Cima, R. F. F., Mazurek, B., Haider, H., Kikidis, D., Lapira, A., Noreña, A., & Hoare, D. J. (2019). A multidisciplinary European guideline for tinnitus: diagnostics, assessment, and treatment. Hno, 67(1), 10-42.  

3Langguth B, Landgrebe M, Kleinjung T, Sand GP, Hajak G (2011) Tinnitus and depression. World J Biol Psychiatry 12(7):489–500

4Goebel G, Fichter M (2005) Psychiatrische Komorbidität bei Tinnitus. In: Tinnitus. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg, pp 137–150

5 McFerran, D. J., Stockdale, D., Holme, R., Large, C. H., & Baguley, D. M. (2019). Why is there no cure for tinnitus?. Frontiers in neuroscience, 13, 802.

6Sereda, M., Xia, J., El Refaie, A., Hall, D. A., & Hoare, D. J. (2018). Sound therapy (using amplification devices and/or sound generators) for tinnitus. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (12).8

7Jastreboff PJ, Jastreboff MM (2000) Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) as a method for treatment of tinnitus and hyperacusis patients. J Am Acad Audiol 11(3):162–177

8 Henry, J. A., & Manning, C. (2019). Clinical protocol to promote standardization of basic tinnitus services by audiologists. American Journal of Audiology, 28(1S), 152-161.  

9 Biggins, A., & Powers, D. (2021). Reducing tinnitus with hearing aids: Does Phonak Lyric™ offer a more effective option?, Phonak Field Study News. Retrieved from www.phonakpro.com/evidence, accessed February, 2022.