Tinnitus Q and A – your questions and answers revealed

TinnitusQAWe asked what you wanted to know about tinnitus this Tinnitus Awareness Week.

Take a look at the answers from our experts at British Tinnitus Association, Musicians’ Hearing Services (part of Harley Street Hearing) and BAPAM and if you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

What causes tinnitus?

BTA: Exact cause is unknown, but can include hearing loss, loud noise, stress & anxiety, colds/infections.

What are the first signs of tinnitus?

BTA: Tinnitus is the perception of noises in the head and/or ears with no external source.

Harley Street Hearing: Temporary tinnitus that goes away is the sign that you have been exposed too long to loud sounds.

Is there a cure?

BTA: There is no cure, but it can usually be effectively managed and made less intrusive.

Harley Street Hearing: While there is no 'cure' there are many strategies you can adopt to help you manage this symptom.

How big a factor is stress in tinnitus?

Harley Street Hearing: Stress is one of the major factors of troublesome tinnitus.

BTA: Using sound, relaxation techniques, hearing aids, counselling, tai chi and yoga can all help

Can you get used to tinnitus after a while or is it always an annoyance?

BTA: Yes you can get use to tinnitus after a while, sometimes to a point where you don't notice it anymore.

Is tinnitus only an auditory phenomena or is there a physical feeling within the ear?

BTA: It’s nearly always only auditory but some people get a feeling of fullness.

Harley Street Hearing: There are many situations that you can have tinnitus and a sensation of aural fullness. Too much wax, Meniere’s for example. Advice would be to get your ears checked.

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Is tinnitus associated with hearing loss? Will some people with tinnitus experience increasing or total deafness in time? #TinnitusQA

BTA: Tinnitus does not cause hearing loss, but hearing loss can cause tinnitus.

I've heard irrigation/syringing with water is bad and only a suction/vacuum device should be used, is this so? If someone has an ear infection and irrigation is used what might happen?

BTA: No. People might find suction less intrusive, but there is no evidence to suggest that syringing is harmful.

Harley Street Hearing: Both microsuction and irrigation are safe. However there are several contra indications to both . A qualified ear care specialist you see would ask questions to red flag these areas and it depends on the ear infection, if you are worried see your GP. 

My mother suffers from tinnitus and it affected me slightly at one time. I found an internet link and wonder if any of the suggestions actually work:  http://dremilykane.com/2002/05/10/top-five-remedies-for-tinnitus/

BTA: Only TRT and ginkgo have been properly trialled, no evidence that the others work. Ginkgo no better than placebo.

Harley Street Hearing: While there is no 'cure' there are many strategies you can adopt to help you manage this symptom. Most of these suggestions help relieve stress which in turn may relieve the bothersomeness of the tinnitus 

When people see their GP about tinnitus, what should they be asking? What NHS services are available?

BTA: If your tinnitus is causing distress or if there are certain red flags such as hearing sounds in one ear or pulsatile tinnitus your GP should refer you onto a local tinnitus service. Generally to ENT initially to check for any underlying cause, and then you need to request to be seen in Audiology if that referral onwards is not forthcoming.

Contact the BTA who have details for NHS services in the UK. If you wish to request this prior to going to your GP please call 0800 018 0527 and we can email or post out details for you to take to your GP.

Harley Street Hearing: If it is sudden and unilateral then they should ask for ENT referral to get it investigated. Many NHS audiology departments have a hearing therapist who will be able to give advice.

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There are lots of clinics claiming sound based treatments can help reduce tinnitus- do you think there will ever be a cure?

Harley Street Hearing: Yes although it is difficult to predict when. There has been a big EU grant approved for the research into tinnitus. check out http://tinnet.tinnitusresearch.net/

BTA: We are hopeful that a cure or cures will be found and there is a huge amount of research going on. You can always find out about research on the BTA website www.tinnitus.org.uk

Is there a complete cure for tinnitus on the horizon?

BTA: It’s hard to say if there is a complete cure on the horizon, but certainly we are doing as much as possible to try to find a cure or cures and also methods to manage tinnitus more effectively. The BTA will continue to work tirelessly to this end.

I have tinnitus and don't want it to get worse. I have decent earplugs for gigs, but am finding them a little too much for basic rehearsing at lower volume. Any advice on how I might handle this, as I still want to make sure I protect my hearing (and a drumkit is still pretty loud even without amplification).

Harley Street Hearing: Have you got a pair Musician custom-made Ear Plugs?  If so you can change the filters 9dB for rehearsing and 25dB for gigs.

How are effective are off the shelf ear plugs when listening to music at gigs/clubs?

Harley Street Hearing: They are better than nothing at all but they still let sound in as they are not a perfect fit to your ears. They also block out all sound so you will struggle in conversations and find the music muffled. Custom-made Musician Ear Plugs are custom to your ears and filter out the loud sounds only. For info: http://www.musicianshearingservices.co.uk/what-we-do/musicians-ear-plugs/

Can you get rid of mild tinnitus?

BTA: Depending on the cause of mild tinnitus it may just go (if there is an underlying cause such as stress or an ear infection etc.). However most people find mild tinnitus becomes a natural sound to them and they don’t worry about it over time and hear it less and less. It may still be there but it wouldn’t be an issue.

Does wearing headphones cause Tinnitus?

BTA: Wearing headphones doesn’t cause tinnitus unless the volume you listen to is too loud. Loud sounds about 85dB can cause tinnitus hearing loss so make sure you use headphones set to a sensible level.

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Can tinnitus cause hearing loss?

BTA: Tinnitus doesn’t cause hearing loss, but people with hearing loss may experience tinnitus.

How can I prevent tinnitus? And exactly how common is it?

BTA: Listening to sounds at safe levels is key. Wearing hearing protection in loud environments is also very important. But tinnitus can be cause by many different things including ear infections and sometimes stress, and in these instances you can’t really prevent it. Approximately 10% of the UK population experience tinnitus which is around 6.3 million people.

Harley Street Hearing: For further information on custom-made hearing protection see http://www.musicianshearingservices.co.uk/what-we-do/musicians-ear-plugs/

I have a high pitched ringing in my ears when in silent surroundings. How do I stop this from getting worse?

BTA: Tinnitus tends to ease with time. Taking the usual precautions of wearing hearing protection in loud environments such as gigs and concerts etc and limit exposure if necessary.

Since micro suction, I have become deaf with bad tinnitus & I now hear incorrect pitch in affected ear. Why?

Harley Street Hearing: We’d advise that you get your ears checked again as there might still be wax blocking your ear

Do different kinds of hearing aids make a difference to tinnitus (when it's associated with hearing loss obvs)?

Harley Street Hearing: Yes they do. It's best to get advice so book an appointment with an audiologist for a hearing aid consultation.

What is pulsatile tinnitus and how common is it within the population?

BTA: Pulsatile tinnitus is when you can hear the sound of your heartbeat. For more details about this you can read the BTA leaflet which is available at http://tinnitus.org.uk/pulsatile-tinnitus

The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) is a world leader, with a trained team of friendly and experienced advisers for anyone who experiences tinnitus or those simply seeking guidance or information about the condition.

Confidential helpline: 0800 018 0527

Harley Street Hearing are London’s leading independent hearing clinics and are the most successful Lyric Centre worldwide. Established for 25 years, all our staff are highly skilled audiological practitioners who are trained in healthcare provision. There are currently offering £15 off custom-made musicians earplugs and £15 off hearing therapy until the end of February. Find out more.

Enquiries: 020 7486 1053

BAPAM is a unique non-profit organisation helping performing arts professionals and students with work-related health issues, both physical and psychological.

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