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What is Tinnitus and How is it Treated?

Tinnitus Sufferer

Tinnitus might be a simple annoyance for some, but for others, it's much more. If the noise from tinnitus is constant and prevents proper sleep, it can feel like a living nightmare. Tinnitus is a common condition, with a range of causes and various treatments. It can be caused by an underlying condition, but it is often linked to hearing loss. People who think they might be suffering from tinnitus can see an audiologist for a checkup and a hearing test. Finding the cause and the best treatment can bring relief for many sufferers dealing with tinnitus.

What Is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus causes a ringing, buzzing, whooshing, hissing or other sound in the ear. If there is a sound that you can hear that other people can't, it could be classified tinnitus. Tinnitus can occur in one or both ears, and some people feel that they hear the sounds in their head, rather than in their ears. It can be a constant sound, or it might be intermittent, and it could be a temporary condition or a longer-lasting one. Tinnitus has a range of causes, and it doesn't always go hand in hand with hearing loss. You might experience tinnitus but have no hearing loss.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus has a range of causes, some of which are directly related to the ears and others that are not. Some cases of tinnitus can be caused by blockages in the ear (earwax) or ear infections. Others might be the result of injury, such as a concussion, or injury to the ear from sudden and loud noises. Tinnitus is also associated with some types of medication, as well as some health conditions, such as diabetes, Meniere's disease and even anxiety or depression. Tinnitus is often linked to hearing loss, although not everyone with tinnitus has hearing loss.

Hearing Aids

Hearing aids offer one treatment option for people with tinnitus, particularly if they also have hearing loss. Tinnitus can occur because you're not hearing all that you should be. Some hearing aids are specially designed to help with tinnitus. Open-fit hearing aids are often used to help people with hearing loss as they use a sound tube to deliver sound, without having an ear mold that blocks out sound. There are also combination devices that combine a hearing aid with a sound generator to help people adjust to the tinnitus sound that they experience.

Tinnitus Retraining Therapy

Tinnitus retraining therapy is sometimes used as a treatment for tinnitus. It aims to get people used to the tinnitus sound that they hear, as with the use of combination hearing aids. The therapy teaches the person to ignore the tinnitus sound or to put it to the back of their mind. While it doesn't cure tinnitus, it might help to relieve the symptoms. Sound devices can be worn to ensure therapy is ongoing but therapy sessions are also part of the retraining process.

Tinnitus can be difficult to experience, but there are a number of ways to manage it. When it goes hand in hand with hearing loss, hearing aids can be very helpful.