If you are one of the millions of people in the world who suffer from tinnitus, you will know that it can have a significant impact on your working life as well as your social and family life. This constant ringing in the ears can also cause stress and lead to depression.
Tinnitus is the perception of a sound that doesn’t exist in the environment, this phenomenon can occur in the brain. For many, tinnitus is characterised by a ringing in the ears, but it can also take the form of different sounds such as hissing, buzzing or humming.
Understanding the facts around tinnitus is an excellent way of finding a way to alleviate it.
The British Tinnitus Association estimates that almost 10% of people worldwide suffer from tinnitus to some extent. And with so many people suffering from tinnitus, it is more important than ever to distinguish fact from fiction. Understanding the truth about tinnitus can give you every chance to treat it effectively and reduce its symptoms in order to improve your quality of life.
Myth # 1: Tinnitus is an incurable disease
That is completely untrue. Tinnitus is not a disease per se, but sometimes the result of a number of underlying conditions. Intense noises, nerve damage, vascular diseases and even brain injuries are just a few examples of health problems that can contribute to the emergence of tinnitus. It can also develop in response to certain drugs. And even if it is true that there is no "cure", there are treatments that will reduce the symptoms and make it easier to live with tinnitus.
Myth # 2: All I have to do is change my diet and my tinnitus will disappear
Whilst it is true that some people think that certain additives and foodstuffs such as alcohol, salt and caffeine can exacerbate tinnitus, they are not normally the root cause. It is always important for our general state of health to eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, but tinnitus can be treated separately. Strategies to manage tinnitus can include making changes to one’s diet and lifestyle but that won’t be enough to alleviate tinnitus. These strategies will often be accompanied by sound therapy.
Photo by Brooke Lark
Myth # 3: There’s nothing I can do about tinnitus
There is something that you can do! Tinnitus research is ongoing and treatments are constantly developing and being improved. Whether your tinnitus is mild, moderate or severe, an audiologist can suggest solutions and treatments to help you to ease the symptoms and make things more comfortable for you. In addition, other health professionals can diagnose and treat the health problems that might cause tinnitus in the first place.
Myth # 4: Only people who are hard of hearing suffer from tinnitus
Yes, people with hearing loss may also have tinnitus, and they are often connected. But it is also possible to have tinnitus without having hearing loss. If you are exposed to very intense noise, such as during a rock concert or an explosion, you might experience temporary ringing in your ears. And some other medical conditions or the use of certain drugs can cause tinnitus. Even if you do not think that you have hearing loss, it is still worth being examined by an audiologist.
Myth # 5: Everyone who suffers from tinnitus goes deaf
Tinnitus and hearing loss can co-exist but they are separate conditions. Hearing loss is not a consequence of tinnitus and even if you do have hearing loss, it doesn’t mean that you will go deaf. Hearing aids can correct hearing loss and can often manage the symptoms of tinnitus at the same time.
Myth # 6: Tinnitus is always a ringing in the ears.
The truth is that the sounds produced by tinnitus are not the same for everyone. Ringing is the most common, but it can also take the form of buzzing, hissing or humming. Tinnitus sounds vary individually from day to day and are very personal.
Myth # 7: Hearing aids will not help tinnitus.
The truth is that new developments in hearing aid technology can manage both hearing loss and the symptoms of tinnitus by increasing external sounds, thereby masking the internal sounds of tinnitus.
Myth # 8: There are pills that you can take to make tinnitus disappear
Unfortunately, there is no "magic pill" that you can take to treat tinnitus. But there are ways of managing tinnitus that can ease the symptoms and make it acceptable. Progress has been made in sound therapy for example, with great success. Other ways of managing the symptoms include hearing aids, meditation, stress management techniques and dietary changes as well as doing exercise. Consult an audiologist who specialises in tinnitus to discuss these options.
Myth # 9: Tinnitus is linked solely to listening to loud music or using earphones.
Although tinnitus can be caused by listening to music at excessively and dangerously high volumes, and by any excessive noise for that matter, there may be a number of different causes. People of different ages and ethnicities, with different states of health and from different socio-economic groups have tinnitus and there is often no obvious reason. In other words, just because you don’t listen to music at an excessively high volume or use earphones doesn’t mean that you are immune.
Myth # 10: Tinnitus is in your head
The fact that other people can’t "hear" your tinnitus, and that there is no test result to show that it is present, doesn’t mean that it is not real. Millions of people in the world suffer from tinnitus and it can vary from being mildly inconvenient to distressing and disabling. Don’t suffer in silence. There are experts who can help you to treat your symptoms and improve your quality of life. However, you will have to be patient because it will probably take several trials to find the perfect treatment for your condition.
If you are one of the millions of people in the world who suffer from tinnitus, understanding the facts is a first step. A simple telephone call may be all that is needed to get help. Start with one of our hearing care professional partners to find help near you.