Tinnitus - What is it?

Book an Appointment

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus pronounced ‘tin-nuh- tus’ or ‘tin-ny-tus’, refers to the experience of hearing sounds in the ears or the head, where no external sound source is present. Tinnitus often accompanies a hearing loss, and can be an initial indicator of hearing loss, but it can also occur in people with normal hearing.

It can be distressing

Literature suggests an incidence of anywhere from 1 in 10, to 1 in 3 Australians experience tinnitus at some point. However, research has shown that in a very quiet room, such as an anechoic chamber, most people will be aware of having tinnitus, even if they are not usually aware of it in normal settings.

Tinnitus can be temporary or permanent, constant, or intermittent. It can be faint or loud, and occur in one or both ears, or seemingly in the head. People have varying descriptions of the sound of their tinnitus, but commonly it is experienced as either a ringing, buzzing, pulsing, roaring, whooshing or the sound of crickets.

Some people can easily ‘block out’ their tinnitus as unimportant, and not worthy of worry. For others, the experience can range from mildly annoying to extremely distressing, creating severe anxiety and sometimes correlate with a hypersensitivity to sound, known as “hyperacusis” or “recruitment”.

woman has hand on ear ringing tinnitus
audiologist at Hear Check helping woman tinnitus

How does it occur?

Research is still unclear as to the exact mechanism in the auditory system that is responsible for tinnitus. Some argue that tinnitus is like chronic pain syndrome, in which the sensation of pain persists even after a wound or broken bone has healed.

Some suggest the brain becomes ‘hypersensitive’ to sound because of damage to the hair cells of the inner ear, and therefore the sufferer is more aware of internal sounds. Other professionals believe it to be the result of the tiny hair cells inside the cochlea in the inner ear providing stimulation to the hearing nerve and brain, despite no incoming signal.

What causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus most commonly occurs when hearing loss is present, even if this loss may be insignificant or not yet detected. Tinnitus can also be induced or worsened by:

• Loud noise exposure
• Ear or head trauma
• Ear infections
• Medication side effect
• Meniere’s disease
• Tumours
• Stress

Sometimes, however, it is not clear why a person has tinnitus.

How is it treated?

Under the guidance and leadership of Dr Keogh, we deliver our tinnitus management services based on the most current evidence, scientific literature and research available.

It is important to understand that currently, there is no cure for tinnitus, but it is possible to treat some underlying causes and to manage the impact that it might be having on your quality of life.

Tinnitus Management at Hear Check involves a comprehensive investigation of the causes and exacerbations and an in-depth interview to understand the impact you are experiencing. We then develop a personalised and wholistic plan based on current research to help you manage your tinnitus successfully. This can include amplification if hearing loss is present, sound therapy, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) stress management, information, and counselling.

What to do if you have tinnitus?

Read more about Tinnitus Management here and/or make an appointment to see our specialist team so we can understand your tinnitus experience and guide you to the appropriate course of management for your individual needs.