What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the sensation of hearing a sound that hasn't come from the outside world. With recent research into the mechanisms of tinnitus we can be even more specific, and say that tinnitus is a 'phantom auditory perception', similar to how amputees experience a phantom sensation such as an itchiness or an ache in their amputated limb.
From time to time 1 in 3 of us experience it in passing. But for some, tinnitus is more persistent and can sometimes become annoying: even distressing. About 6 million adults in the UK are with constant, mild, tinnitus - which is about 10% of the total UK population.
- 60,000 adults in the UK who have tinnitus so severely it impacts on their quality of life
- 70% of people with hearing loss who have some degree of tinnitus
- 30% of people over 70 years of age who experience tinnitus
- 1% of people under 45 who have any degree of tinnitus. The good news is that support is at hand.
Oxford Hearing Centre can provide you with timely advice about tinnitus that is relevant to you and help you in adapting to it, managing it and easing, together with products useful in the relief and habituation of tinnitus.
What does Tinnitus sound like?
Tinnitus sounds different to different people. Some people describe it as a hiss, or a buzzing or a ringing, or a whistling. Sometimes it can be a clicking or a pulsing or rushing sound. Sometimes it can sound like music, such as an old hymn or organ music. Often it's a combination of several sounds and tones. Sometimes the sound is not true tinnitus, but is actually a sound our body is making. This is known as a somatosound. It could be the movement of our jaws, or the rushing of blood, or even the clicking of muscles in our ears.
For a small number of people tinnitus becomes bothersome. They may even become so concerned about it that it begins to affect their quality of life, to such an extent that it may keep them awake at night, or distract them during their daily activities. They may even have approached their GP and been told (mistakenly) that there's nothing that can be done about it and that they need to learn to live with it, which only seems to aggravate the tinnitus further. Stress is one of the factors that aggravate tinnitus and so stress reduction and relaxation are usually involved in any tinnitus management regime. Using sounds from nature is also common, as these help to minimize the contrast between the irritating intrusion of tinnitus and other external sounds.
As we know music often influences our mood and emotions. Relaxing music can be very useful for tinnitus sufferers, by helping them to relax and counteract the nuisance sounds in the ears. There are some hearing aids designed to counter the effects of tinnitus. There are a variety of products and counselling programmes designed to help relieve and manage the tinnitus.