Tinnitus is a very common symptom suffered to some extent by 70-85% of people with hearing impairment. For most, it’s more of an irritant than a major problem, but for some, tinnitus has major influence on their well-being and causes sleeping problems, anxiety and stress. Tinnitus can be perceived as many different sounds, such as humming, ringing, or buzzing, and it can be constant or periodic and vary in loudness.
There can be many causes of tinnitus, but often the reason is unknown. Frequently it is noise induced, is related to medical disorders such as ear infections or Meniere’s disease, or may be caused by use of certain drugs. Regardless of the cause, there is a very high correlation between the presence of hearing loss and tinnitus. This correlation is probably related to the well-established principle that a peripheral disorder (such as a hearing loss) produces an increase in brain activity. In other words, the brain tries to compensate for the lack of stimulation from the inner ear.
Often, negative emotion is attached to the tinnitus, and increased attention is paid to it – making it difficult for the patient to cope. Tinnitus is often more difficult to deal with when there is uncertainty or fear involved.
Once medical evaluation has ruled out a treatable or serious disorder, education and reassurance can be extremely valuable and may be sufficient for some people. For others, there are devices and training programs that can help reduce the annoyance of tinnitus.
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