Ringing that's NOT music to my ears....Tinnitus: will this buzzing ever stop, Doc?
Updated: Jun 28, 2021
Welcome back everyone! TGIF :-)
Tinnitus! Buzzing! Humming! Cicadas! Crickets!
Photo: showing a tinnitus sufferer with constant ringing in his ears, leading to high stress & anxiety levels (from Sjstudio6 / Shutterstock )
Most of us would have experienced tinnitus before in our lives .......... that weird buzzing or humming in our head or somewhere between our ears!
Most of the time, tinnitus is self-limiting and resolves on its own. However, sometimes it becomes persistent or even permanent. It can worry us, interfere with our sleep and our enjoyment of life; for some it can become debilitating, with depression and despair, leading to suicidal intent.
You may be surprised to know that tinnitus affects about 10 percent of people worldwide, and 90% of those persons also experience different degrees of hearing loss. About half of persons affected by tinnitus seek medical attention.
Chronic or persistent tinnitus is that which lasts for six months or more in duration.
In some cases, the condition doesn’t go away unless the underlying medical condition is identified and treated. There is "objective" and "subjective" tinnitus. Many causes of objective tinnitus are amenable to treatment; subjective tinnitus may not be easy to resolve.
The exact cause of tinnitus is still unclear, but the most common conditions linked to its development include inner ear hair cell damage, age-related hearing loss, impacted wax (cerumen), prolonged exposure to loud noise / music, changes in the middle ear bones, head or neck injuries, and a side effect of some ototoxic medicines. Other causes include eustachian tube dysfunction, ear infections, traumatic brain injury, diabetes, acoustic neuroma tumours, Meniere’s disease, and temporo-mandibular joint (TM J) disorders.
Tinnitus can be mentally frustrating and exhausting
The suffering is worse in people with chronic tinnitus. Our brains aren't designed to be focused or attentive all the time. we need ample time to relax and rest. Sleep, meditation, relaxation, and study breaks are essential to help our brains recover.
However, chronic tinnitus forces the person to focus on the sound of the tinnitus every waking moment, being unable to fully relax. This all leads to mental and physical exhaustion, restlessness, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, stress and fatigue, and sometimes to depression and desperation.
Do not suffer in SILENCE!
SILENCE is the enemy for tinnitus sufferers.
Treating the underlying medical condition behind tinnitus is the treatment to reduce its effects on the body and brain. While some types of tinnitus can’t be completely eradicated, the symptoms can be alleviated, making it easier to cope with. Though not all treatments are able to remove tinnitus, some measures can help make life easier.
If you google "cures for tinnitus", as I just did ....... there are over 15 millions hits!
Google Search for Tinnitus, cures yields about 15,700,000 results (0.63 seconds)
and yet, to be honest, we do not have a CURE in most instances.
It is important to consult your GP or ENT Specialist to help diagnose the cause for your tinnitus; because some conditions of objective tinnitus eg impacted ear wax / glue ear / ear drum perforations etc can be fixed and your tinnitus thereby alleviated.
There are also various audiological tests and imaging scans to help us look for other treatable causes.
Finally, never give up HOPE!
There are avenues of help eg Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), music / acoustic / sound therapy, mindfulness which can bring relief!
One form is Acoustic therapy with tinnitus maskers eg the Beltone Tinnitus Breaker Pro System:
Illustration to show the effects of tinnitus on patients and how to retrain our hearing
system to reduce the impact of tinnitus on ourselves (from Beltone)
The Beltone Tinnitus Breaker Pro generates a low-volume white noise, which makes the distressing tinnitus noise less noticeable and starts retraining the brain to filter out the tinnitus sound.
As the brain gradually adjusts to a higher level of acoustic activity, the tinnitus signal is perceived as less important and gradually your mind pays less attention to it.
There is also the Neuromonics Oasis System:
The Oasis™ device is a patented, precision medical instrument available only by prescription.
It is not: a masking device, a noise or sound generator, or a hearing aid. And it’s not an MP3 player—though that’s what it might look like to the casual observer.
About the size and weight of a cell phone, the Oasis™ is compact and inconspicuous, making it easy to continue day-to-day activities during treatment.
Photo showing the latest model of the Neuromonics
called the OASIS for Tinnitus Retraining Therapy
And treatment itself is a pleasant experience. Each user’s individually customised acoustic stimulus is embedded in spectrally modified and precisely designed relaxing music, and delivered at a comfortable listening level.
The Oasis device from Neuromonics Inc. plays baroque and new-age music customised to provide auditory stimulation in patients' lost frequencies as well as a 'shower' sound. Users listen to the program for two hours daily for two months, then the shower sound is withdrawn for four more months of treatment, gradually training the brain to filter out the internal noise, the company says.
High-fidelity earphones provide the acoustic clarity and fidelity required for the treatment across a wide frequency range. With their lightweight, unobtrusive design, users almost forget they’re wearing them.
Finally, there are also many other devices and smart phone apps to help you with TRT or other forms of acoustic / masking therapy. Do discuss these options with your ENT Specialist / audiologist.
The good news is that we can help you cope / adjust to living with tinnitus, so that it no longer dominates your mind / interferes with your living life to the utmost!
You may want to check out for more Tinnitus information in the references listed here below:
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). (2017). https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/tinnitus
(2005). Brain Activity and Tinnitus. PLoS Med 2. journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0020194
Haider, HF, Bojic, T., Ribeiro, S., Paco, J., Hall, D., and Szczepek, A. (2017). Pathophysiology of Subjective Tinnitus: Triggers and Maintenance. Frontiers in Neuroscience. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6277522/
American Academy of Otolayngology- Head and Neck Surgery. (2018). https://www.entnet.org/node/1324.