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What is Tinnitus?

  • Tinnitus means “ringing”. It can be a ringing, whistling, buzzing or a multitude of different sounds a person hears in their ears or head.

  • Tinnitus is the perception of sound without any external sound present.

  • It is a common issue that around 10% of people suffer from.


Tinnitus Causing Deafness

  • Most patients with tinnitus have hearing loss but research indicates that tinnitus does not cause deafness.

  • However, experiencing tinnitus could be a sign of other related hearing issues causing it.

Potential Causes

  • Any ear diseases could cause tinnitus.

  • Tinnitus is mostly caused by damage to the inner ear hair cells or the microscope endings of the hearing nerve.

  • Hearing damage can lead to the brain compensating for the loss of hearing ability by creating imaginary sounds, leading to tinnitus.

  • Damage can be caused by viral infection, excessive noise exposure or ageing.

  • Other causes of tinnitus can include:

    • Outer ear infection

    • Ear tumours

    • Wax accumulation

    • Eardrum perforations

    • Middle-ear infection

  • However, often there is no obvious cause.

Complications of Tinnitus

  • Prolonged tinnitus can cause undue anxiety and stress as it can be intrusive.

  • Anxiety and stress can aggravate tinnitus even further, making it sound louder.

  • Difficulty sleeping and concentrating.

  • Negative impacts on daily work and social activities.

How to Diagnose Tinnitus

  • Looking at your medical history, doing a physical examination and a hearing test will help to identify where the tinnitus is coming from.

  • An MRI scan may occasionally be required to rule out a tumour, known as an acoustic neuroma, growing on the hearing or balance nerve.

  • In Singapore, there are about 10-15 cases per year of such tumours, making them quite rare.

Importance of Early Treatment

  • The ear itself processes sound, but the stimuli that manifests as tinnitus occurs in the brain.

  • When hearing is impaired, the brain creates “sounds” compensating for the loss of hearing ability.

  • When the ringing first occurs, it creates electric impulses travelling through the brain.

  • If the brain continues to process these signals, the neural pathways form stable connections, similar to storing long term memory, creating tinnitus.

  • Therefore, early or acute tinnitus could possibly be treated before it becomes permanent.

  • If tinnitus persists for 3 months or more, it is considered chronic.

Treatment Information

  • Since tinnitus could be caused by ear diseases, treatment or surgery for the underlying ear issue could be the solution. However, idiopathic or spontaneous tinnitus, or tinnitus caused by nerve damage are harder to treat.

  • Certain kinds of medication may help alleviate symptoms, but generally the methods used are counselling, coping strategies and sound therapy. The aim of such techniques and therapy is to encourage habituation so that the patient eventually “does not hear”, or pay attention to, the tinnitus.

  • It is possible to train your brain to perceive the noise heard as less of a burden or a threat even if the sound is still present. This will help reduce its impact on your daily life. The aim is to move the troublesome tinnitus from the conscious mind to the subconscious mind.

If you would like to seek consultation for Tinnitus with Euan’s ENT Surgery & Clinic, please Contact Us to make an appointment.

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