Tinnitus is the sound of buzzing or ringing in the ears or head that other people cannot hear. Tinnitus is experienced by 15% of the population but only about 15% of them seek medical help. For this small section of the population, tinnitus can be debilitating.
Tinnitus is not a disease but rather a symptom. Rarely, it can be a symptom of something serious so it is important to have medical and audiological consults.
80% of people with tinnitus also have hearing loss. Other risk factors include increasing age and male gender. Tinnitus is often associated with sudden hearing loss, noise trauma and ototoxic medications.
Patients with tinnitus and hearing loss often report psychological problems such as frustration, distress, irritability , anxiety, depression, insomnia and poor concentration.
Although tinnitus cannot be cured it can be managed through symptom reduction. Components of tinnitus management include amplification through hearing aids, masking, habituation, education, relaxation techniques, targeted cognitive behavior therapy, altering diet and medications such as antidepressants and sedatives are all tools which can be used.
Patients should not be told to “learn to live with it.” Help is available!