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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 and has launched a mobile app which enables people to manage their tinnitus symptoms (available in Belgium, Netherlands, Ireland and Italy).
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