Qualified Impartial Advice For All Hearing Problems
Helping You Get Relief From Your Tinnitus
We offer only safe, proven treatments for tinnitus such as the Zen protocol from Widex. In many cases though, just treating an underlying hearing loss is enough to reduce or eliminate tinnitus.
Tinnitus Is the sensation of a sound in the ear or head that is not being produced by an external source.
It’s quite common to have mild tinnitus, and around 12 in 100 people are occasionally affected. According to clinical evidence, 1 in 200 people have tinnitus so badly that it affects their ability to lead a normal life.
Dr. Robert Sweetow, Ph.D. from University of California, has 30 years' of experience in treating tinnitus. In this video he addresses the subject of hearing aids and tinnitus.
At the bottom of this page are a number of useful guides produced by the British Tinnitus Association which you can download.
Tinnitus and Hearing Loss
Hearing is incredibly important; without it, life is just not the same. Therefore, it is important to learn about hearing loss and what causes it. It is also important to learn about conditions associated with hearing loss – such as tinnitus – so that you can identify tinnitus and hearing loss and hopefully take steps to limit or remove their effects.
What is Tinnitus?
Everyone knows what hearing loss is – the term is pretty self-explanatory. Tinnitus is somewhat different. While many people may not know what the word means, most have probably heard about its characteristics, and many may have it without knowing what it’s called. Tinnitus is better described by its common description, “ringing in the ears”. Basically, it is when a repetitive noise is heard without there being any external cause to the sound. People naturally hear ringing in the ears after being in a loud concert, but tinnitus occurs when there is no external cause to the sound that you hear in your ear.
- Tinnitus is a perception of sound
- Tinnitus is involuntary (i.e. it is not produced intentionally)
- Tinnitus originates in the head (i.e. it does not involve hearing or being overly sensitive to an external sound)(Cited in Tyler 2005)
The Causes of Tinnitus
Most tinnitus is caused by a problem with the inner ear, which converts sounds to nerve signals, the auditory nerve, which carries these signals to the parts of the brain involved in decoding those signals into what we sense as sounds. Tinnitus is often linked to hearing loss. For this reason it’s more common in older people who have age-related hearing loss. Exposure to loud noise at work may also cause tinnitus. If you work with pneumatic drills or in noisy factories, you may be more at risk of having tinnitus. Other possible causes can come from:
- Ear infections and inflammation
- Diseases of the ear, e.g. Meniere’s disease
- Excessive use of certain drugs
- Hard wax blocking your ear
- Middle ear infection
- Head injury or whiplash
- Induced by noise
Common Difficulties With Tinnitus
There are a lot of common difficulties caused by the condition across people who suffer with it. You aren't alone if you suffer with the following problems:
- Difficulty getting to sleep
- Stress and irritation
- Poor concentration
- Despair, depression
The link between tinnitus and stress
Perhaps the most exacerbating factor for tinnitus is stress. Tinnitus affects the brain in more than one way; it triggers the auditory centre, but it also affects the emotional control centre. When this occurs, stress hormones are released. As a result, the person with tinnitus becomes more stressed due to the tinnitus, and just as importantly, the greater stress increases the perception of tinnitus. To break this vicious cycle, in which one negative symptom reinforces the other, often requires a number of complimentary strategies.
Are there treatments that can help me?
Tinnitus does not have a cure yet, but treatments that help many people cope better with the condition are available. Nearly everyone with tinnitus also has a hearing loss. For those with hearing loss, hearing aids should obviously improve their hearing and communication. But many do not appreciate that hearing aids can also improve tinnitus. Hearing aids are often helpful for people who have hearing loss along with tinnitus. Using a hearing aid adjusted to carefully control outside sound levels may make it easier for you to hear. The better you hear, the less you may notice your tinnitus.
Tinnitus can have a direct impact on a person's emotional well-being, their hearing, and ability to sleep and to concentrate. These in turn influence basic life functions such as socialisation and relaxation. Despite the high prevalence of tinnitus and its obvious impact on the psychological health of the patient, only a small number of people contact medical practitioners or hearing care professionals for help. The reason perhaps lies in the widespread belief that tinnitus is incurable or untreatable. Yet, there are several methods for treating tinnitus and alleviating the impact it has on quality of life.
One major inadvertent tragedy associated with the belief that tinnitus cannot be helped is that people, in addition to not seeking help for their tinnitus, also do not seek help for their hearing loss. Improving communication reduces stress, therefore making it easier to accept or cope with tinnitus. Amplifying background sound, or producing background ambient noise, thereby reduces the loudness or prominence of tinnitus.
The use of sound in tinnitus management
Most tinnitus management methods use a combination of counselling and sound stimulation. The purpose of using sound is to:
- Minimise the contrast between the tinnitus and the surrounding sound environment
- Reduce fatigue and stress
- Shift focus away from the tinnitus
- Break the cycle
Sound stimulation can be delivered via a number of methods including:
- Amplified sound from hearing aids
- Broad-band or narrow-band signals from a noise generating device
- Environmental sounds
For many clients, amplified sound from hearing aids, a radio or television is sufficient to reduce the contrast
The majority of people use music for relaxation and concentration. Since, for many clients, tinnitus is present more or less all day long, it can cause persistent stress. The ZEN program from Widex can be used to conveniently and discreetly hear relaxing music while wearing the hearing aids. The ZEN program can make it easier to relax and reduces stress. When dealing with tinnitus, it is a good idea to avoid silence.
The ZEN tones are intended to provide a relaxing sound background in quiet situations when listening to the environment or speech is not of critical importance. Heart and respiration rates decrease over time while listening to a relaxing piece of music. Music also alters blood pressure, muscle tension, tear production and skin temperature.
Widex ZEN tones are based on an understanding of the optimal music characteristics for relaxation. The music is based on fractal technology, which ensures that the music is rather predictable without repeating itself. It has been shown that the Widex ZEN tones can make it easier to relax and many people also experience improved concentration. The ZEN tones appear to reduce the annoyance level of tinnitus as well as stress.
What is relaxing for one listener may not be relaxing for another, even though the music includes many relaxing characteristics. The ZEN program offers different ZEN styles and it is possible to individualise them.
Information about hypnotherapy support for tinnitus is available here.