what is tinnitus?
Tinnitus refers to hearing a continuous sound in one or both ears. This sound originates in the head and does not come from outside. Tinnitus can also be very diverse. Another word for this condition is ringing in the ears. Many people suffer from a hiss, tone, beep, hum or metallic sound. Many people who suffer from a ringing or ringing in the ear are afraid that they have tinnitus. However, this is simply a collective term for all kinds of sounds that you can hear in the head. It occurs in approximately 2 million Dutch people and is usually harmless or temporary. Nevertheless, in about 10% of the cases it can cause such complaints that a professional treatment is necessary.
What symptoms are associated with tinnitus?
The only symptom of tinnitus is having some noise in the head. This can be a ringing in the ear, but also a hum or hiss. Some people actually suffer from a ringing in the ear, a sawing sound, whistling sound, or a metallic sound. Some people even suffer from two different types of noise in the head. Sometimes the ear can be closed and hissing.
By having a continuous noise in the ear, other complaints can also arise such as:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Fatigue complaints
- Difficulty sleeping
- Neck and muscle tension
- Being easily irritable
- Feelings of despair and anger
- Anxiety symptoms
- Feelings of depression
what makes tinnitus worse?
The ringing is usually drowned out by outside noises. As a result, it often gets worse in a quiet environment. If someone has been dealing with loud noises a lot, the tinnitus may temporarily get worse. In addution, if someone has been very busy, has a lot of stress, is tired or has a lot of emotions, the ringing in the ears can temporarily increase. The noise in the ear can also increase due to teeth grinding or chronic neck complaints. Due to a stimulation of the temporomandibular joint or the neck, the ringing can temporarily worsen.
what causes tinnitus?
Usually tinnitus is caused by a reduced functioning of the hearing organ (cochlea). This reduces the signal from the cochlea to the brain. As a result, the cranial nerves try to amplify this signal and work harder than intended. As a result, the ringing in the ears develops. So it does not originate in the ear, but actually in the brain.
Tinnitus can be caused by various causes:
- Hearing loss due to old age
- Exposure to loud noise
- Sudden deafness (sudden deafness)
- Closure of the ear canal by, for example, water, earwax or a cotton ball
- Ear infection
- Damage of the ear or eardrum as a result of an accident
- Meniere’s disease
- Otosclerosis (calcification of the stapes )
- Brain tumor
- Inflammation of the brain and whether meninges (meningitis)
Tinnitus can also increase due to
- High blood pressure
- Grinding teeth/clamps
It is important to investigate the cause of the ringing in the ear. There may be a treatable explanation. Serious causes can also be ruled out.
What to do against ear ringing?
- Many people become obsessed with the ringing in the ears. As a result, the complaints often even increase.
- Try to remain calm and try to focus on other sounds. This is difficult, but often it succeeds and the complaints subside.
- Prevent stress, fatigue, emotions and overload. This makes the symptoms worse. Sufficient regularity, sleep and reduction of alcohol, tobacco or drugs can reduce the complaints.
- Try to avoid loud noises and in those cases wear good hearing protection.
- Try to relax by listening to pleasant relaxing music.
Which drug helps against tinnitus?
Unfortunately, there is no ready-made medicine that will make the noise in the ear disappear. Sometimes, in addition to the ringing in the ear, there are also additional complaints such as sleeping problems, depressive complaints or feelings of fear or despair. These complaints can often be treated well with medication. By treating these complaints, the burden you experience from ear ringing can be significantly reduced.
What possible treatment is there for tinnitus?
Although in many cases the ringing in the ear or noise in the ear cannot disappear completely, a good combined approach succeeds in reducing the tinnitus to an acceptable level in 90% of people. As a result, it is often possible to learn to live with tinnitus. We have the following options for this:
Exclude a serious cause
Many people are afraid that there is more to it when they suffer from tinnitus. There is often a fear of a brain tumor. By doing a good hearing test, clearly mapping the tinnitus, possibly followed by a brain scan, serious causes of tinnitus can be are excluded. This allows us to reassure people, so that the focus on the complaints decreases and the beep or hissing tone eventually disappears into the background.
Guidance in the acceptance
If the tinnitus does not disappear by itself over time, it is possible to make the tinnitus disappear into the background by means of psychological counseling. In the tinnitus expertise center of KNO Medisch Centrum a treatment has been developed in which a habituation process is started by means of psycho-education in combination with cognitive-behavioral therapy. During this therapy we also look at underlying psychological causes such as stress, anxiety or depression. Scientific research has shown that this method is effective. With this, most patients can be helped in a short time.
Actively suppressing the tinnitus
Sometimes the habituation process can be disrupted by an annoying presence of tinnitus. Especially in a quiet environment, the tinnitus easily comes to the fore. In these cases, sound enrichment can be chosen, which actively suppresses the tinnitus. This can be done in various ways.
Sound enrichment facilitates the habituation process: extra sound is offered so that the tinnitus will sound relatively quieter. This can be done in several (simple) ways and depends on the individual situation of the person. For example, it may be sufficient to put on some soft music in quiet periods or to place a simple sound device on the bedside table at night. In some other cases, a portable sound generator (= a device that is worn in the ear and produces a soft noise) can be considered. It is also possible to use a pillow with speaker function.
Hearing aid with tinnitus mask
First of all, the natural outside sounds are amplified by the hearing aid, which can drown out the tinnitus. It is also possible to have the device itself produce a sound. A very soft sound, which is not heard by bystanders, can be enough to drown out the ringing in the ears. However, not everyone benefits from this. Replacing one’s own ringing by another outside noise is sometimes found to be even more annoying than one’s own ringing in the ears. Unfortunately, a masking device does not always lead to the desired result. So this is used as one of the last options.
Preventing noise damage
Many people with tinnitus often have to deal with noise. Think of working in a noisy environment, going to concerts or discos or listening to loud music through headphones. Unfortunately, damage to the hearing organ cannot be reversed. It is therefore very important to prevent this noise damage. Wearing good hearing protection can prevent noise damage in most cases. At KNO Medisch Centrum we have various ways of hearing protection. See the page hearing protection.
Can you cure tinnitus?
Whether you can cure tinnitus depends first of all on the cause of the tinnitus. Sometimes the underlying cause can be treated properly, reducing the tinnitus. Even if tinnitus is caused by a period of too much stress or overload, the tinnitus can clearly decrease if you take it easy. However, there are also situations when the cause of tinnitus cannot be removed. If there is permanent hearing damage, the tinnitus can be difficult to cure. However, with good information and guidance, it is possible to reduce tinnitus. Often to an acceptable level.
When to contact us?
If your complaints of tinnitus cause concern or if your complaints are such that you experience a lot of hindrance in daily life, it may be advisable to make an appointment with an ENT specialist. If you are curious about our treatment method, it is possible to make an appointment for this.
Click on the links below for more information
Information from the Dutch Association for ENT-throatology
This patient information has been compiled with the utmost care. It concerns general information. This information is not legally binding. © KNO Medisch Centrum / www.knomc.nl