Do you have ringing, whooshing or buzzing in your ears?
Are sounds uncomfortably loud?
Are you avoiding noise?
You might have tinnitus
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a sound that someone can hear in their ear/s or within their head that is generated within the body and not by any external source. It may sound very different to different people – sometimes like a high pitched ringing or a rushing noise. It may be present all of the time, or just in certain situations.
Some research suggests that nearly all people have experienced some degree of tinnitus at some point in their lives. 10% of adults report prolonged tinnitus, and for half of these people the tinnitus is moderately to severely annoying. In a small minority of people the tinnitus has a severe effect on the person’s ability to lead a normal life.
What causes tinnitus?
It is important to realise that tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease or an illness. There are many different causes of tinnitus, some of which are not yet fully understood but we do know that the sound is generated within the hearing pathways of the brain.
The brain is constantly hearing lots of different sounds, but has the ability to sort these sounds, so that we pay attention only to the important sounds that we need to hear. So if you are sitting in your lounge reading the paper, your brain will filter out the sound of the washing machine in the kitchen, your neighbour mowing his lawn etc. If there is a knock at the door, however, the brain will allow this sound through and will draw your attention to it. We also have an emotional response to sounds, for example we will respond differently to the telephone ringing in the middle of the night than to it ringing during the day. The diagram below summarises how tinnitus can become troublesome. It shows that tinnitus can cause distress that makes the individual more aware of the tinnitus resulting in a self-perpetuating cycle.
What is hyperacusis?
Hyperacusis, or decreased sound tolerance, is the result of over-amplification in the auditory system. Most patients with hyperacusis also have misophonia, this means a dislike of sound and results from emotional and autonomic (stress) reactions to sound. Certain sounds become annoying or uncomfortable to you because they are associated with negative memories. Misophonia involves the same connections in the brain as tinnitus, so the treatment options are very similar. However, the aim when treating Misophonia is to desensitise the auditory system and retrain your emotional reactions to sound.
What does tinnitus/hyperacusis assessment involve?
When you attend a tinnitus or hyperacusis assessment we spend time finding out how tinnitus or hyperacusis it is influencing you. We also look at reasons why your tinnitus might have become troublesome. Through a variety of diagnostic hearing tests, we will be able to identify any other associated ear problems and design a personalised management plan that suits you and your needs.
- Diagnostic pure tone audiometry
- Speech audiometry
- Sound intolerance assessment
- Middle ear analysis
- Otoacoustic Emission Testing
What can be done to help?
Although you may have heard that there is no cure for tinnitus or hyperacusis, there is a lot that can be done to help and with the correct treatment many patients have a significant improvement in their symptoms. We are here to provide you with the help, support and advice to enable you to get back to a healthy and happy life. This is achieved through a tailored tinnitus management program.
Treatments include hearing aids, tinnitus masking devices and sound enrichment devices. We also use methods to retrain the brain so that it does not react in a negative way to the tinnitus this is known as Tinnitus Retraining Therapy”.
Why choose us?
Our team is very experienced in the care of tinnitus sufferers and by working closely together are able to provide our patients with high quality holistic care.
Mr Lloyd is a consultant ENT surgeon who specialises in the care of patients with ear conditions. He has extensive experience in the field and is able to offer the full range of treatments for all problems of the ear.
Marianne and Phil Holt are Independent Consultant Clinical Scientists (Audiology) and Lucy and Nisha are Senior Specialist Audiology Practitioners. They are all Tinnitus Retraining Therapy practitioners and are able to offer cutting edge and evidence based assessment and rehabilitation.