So, how do you know if you have tinnitus? Well, it can sound like a range of sounds – from ringing and buzzing to whooshing and humming. It might be in one or both of your ears or even feel as if it’s right inside your head! These sounds can come and go, or they might stick around for a while, but if there is no external cause for sounds you can hear, this is a sure sign of tinnitus.
The causes of tinnitus aren’t always clear, but it’s often linked to factors like earwax buildup, untreated hearing loss, Ménière’s disease, or conditions like diabetes and thyroid disorders. Anxiety and depression can also play a role, as well as certain medications, including chemotherapy drugs and antibiotics.
How is Tinnitus Diagnosed?
Tinnitus is normally diagnosed using the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI). This helps to identify just how much tinnitus is impacting your life. There are also tests that audiologists may use during a tinnitus diagnosis, like Pure Tone Audiometry, Speech Discrimination, and Tinnitus Matching.
Pure tone audiometry helps identify the sounds you’re hearing, while speech discrimination focuses on what sounds you’re comprehending. And the tinnitus matching test pinpoints the exact pitch and frequency of that elusive tinnitus sound. Audiologists can create a customised tinnitus treatment plan by assessing the results of these tests, alongside the results of your THI.
Tinnitus Treatment in the UK
If your GP has told you tinnitus is something you need to learn to cope with, you might want to consider getting tinnitus treatment from an audiologist. We had the pleasure of catching up with the trailblazer, Lee Fletcher (RHAD) (BSHAA), the Principal audiologist and company director at Regain Hearing.
Lee has been leading the charge with groundbreaking tinnitus treatment in the UK, available at his clinics in London and Kent. Lee gave us this advice about how to cope with tinnitus:
“Now, here’s a couple of things not to do. Don’t try to drown out the tinnitus with loud music, and try not to focus too much on the noise – you can listen to soft music or try a sound therapy app. Oh, and joining a tinnitus support group can be really helpful.
Remember, tinnitus might be bothersome, but it doesn’t have to take over your life. There are ways to manage it and live well despite its presence. Audiologists that specialise in treating tinnitus are the ones that have the most up-to-date and effective treatments available.”
Innovative Device Offers Tinnitus Relief
Tinnitus is currently not “curable” although it is treatable, and the symptoms can be reduced through various devices and techniques. But researchers at the University of Michigan, led by Dr Susan Shore, might have discovered a treatment during a groundbreaking study. They conducted a clinical trial with 99 people suffering from somatic tinnitus, the most common form of tinnitus, affecting almost 70% of tinnitus sufferers.
Using a portable device, the study participants were divided into two groups – one received the bi-sensory treatment first, and the other got sound-only treatment. Over six weeks, they used the device for 30 minutes daily. More than 60% of those getting the active treatment reported significantly reduced tinnitus symptoms. The longer they received the active treatment, the greater the improvement!
This study is paving the way for personalised, bi-sensory stimulation as a promising treatment for tinnitus. If you want to stay updated on the Michigan team’s progress, you can sign up for email updates at [email protected]