Tinnitus: Will the Ringing Ever Stop?

Tinnitus: Will the Ringing Ever Stop?

Tinnitus: Will the Ringing Ever Stop?

Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is a very common condition affecting approximately 1 in 4 Australians. Tinnitus can present in multiple forms such as ringing, chirping, buzzing, humming and many more. Technically speaking, tinnitus means perceiving sound when no external sound is present. Tinnitus often comes as a result of an underlying condition such as hearing loss, ear injuries, or problems with the circulatory system and often can be managed or helped with the treatment of the underlying condition.

If you suffer from this tinnitus, it is quite normal to feel tense, irritable, or even frustrated. It can affect your concentration, sleep, and even exacerbate depression and anxiety. If you have been struggling with tinnitus and it has affected your everyday life, it may be time to reach out. Audiologists, otherwise known as hearing professionals, are here to help. We are trained to evaluate your hearing and provide treatment options and/or recommend further referral if required.

Tinnitus can be caused by a number of things (see below), but the two most common causes are hearing loss and noise exposure.

  • Noise-induced hearing loss
  • Age-related hearing loss
  • Ear diseases and disorders
  • Extreme stress or trauma
  • Degeneration of the hair cells in the cochlear
  • Ear problems, such as otosclerosis (fixation of the tiny stirrup bone in the middle ear)
  • Meniere’s disease (swelling of a duct in the ear)
  • Some medications.
  • Head trauma
  • Large doses of certain drugs such as aspirin (always check with your doctor whether the medication they are prescribing has a side effect of causing or exacerbating the condition)
  • Compacted ear wax
  • Middle ear infections
  • Jaw misalignment (specifically, dysfunction of the joint connecting the jaw to the bone under the ear)
  • Perilymph fistula (a hole in the inner ear, allowing fluid to escape)
  • Certain types of tumours
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Thyroid disorders

Now that we know some conditions which can cause tinnitus, it’s important to know what can make it worse and how to avoid them. The three major factors that can exacerbate tinnitus are loud noise exposure, stress and fatigue, and use of some medications.

Noise Exposure

Working in noisy surroundings, listening to loud music (both at concerts and through headphones), playing musical instruments, and exposure to other loud noises without using special protective equipment increases the risk of developing tinnitus as well as hearing loss. Even a single incident of exposure to an extremely loud noise (such as fireworks or other explosions, or a gunshot fired close to the ear) can result in tinnitus or hearing loss.

Earplugs or other hearing protection often prevent tinnitus that may otherwise be caused by excessive noise. You should always wear hearing protection in noisy environments, even if you do not find the noise uncomfortable. Hearing loss at higher frequencies is often painless, and the most common result is tinnitus.

Stress & Fatigue

There is some evidence that stress makes tinnitus worse. Although stress is part of everyday life, you can take steps to reduce stress levels by using relaxation and stress management techniques that help you stay calm, think positively, and focus your energies outward and away from the tinnitus.

Hypnotherapy can help with relaxation and cognitive behavioural therapy, offered by clinical psychologists, can help you to change the way you think about the condition, learn ways to focus your attention away from your tinnitus, and control the stress associated with the condition.

Medications & Other Substances

It is essential to tell your family doctor about your tinnitus; some common medications may cause it as a side effect or make your existing condition worse. Take special care with medications for arthritis, rheumatic diseases, some antibiotics, and anti-depressants. Excessive use of aspirin can also create issues; ask your doctor about alternatives if this is a concern.

Some foods and substances are also suspected of making tinnitus worse, although this has not been scientifically proven. While you don’t have to avoid them altogether, try easing off caffeine, quinine (tonic water), and alcohol as they can temporarily worsen tinnitus for some people. Carbohydrate-rich meals, like pasta, can have a calming or sedating effect, which can be helpful. However, give yourself time to digest your meal before you go to bed to avoid disturbed sleep.

Is There a Cure?

Even though there is currently no definitive cure for tinnitus, it is important to recognise that tinnitus does not have to affect your quality of life. This being said, there are techniques, management strategies, and treatments which can help reduce its effects on your life. Treatment options like Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, Surgery, Medications, and Hearing aids can help.

Regardless of the cause, it is important to speak with a professional about your worries and symptoms. Speak with your family doctor, audiologist/hearing professional or ear specialist to begin your journey towards overcoming tinnitus.

For more information, visit earandhearing.com.au or make an appointment to see one of our qualified audiologists.

Can Hearing Loss Really Lead to Memory and Cognitive decline?

Can Hearing Loss Really Lead to Memory and Cognitive decline?

Hearing loss is more common than you might think, affecting over half of all Australians over the age of 60. It is often described as an invisible impairment, as it generally progresses slowly and most people learn tricks and strategies (ie. lip reading) to fill in the gaps. This, in conjunction with the stigma associated with hearing loss and hearing aids, has contributed to the fact people wait 7 to 10 years on average before seeking treatment. Some early signs that you, or someone you know, may have a hearing loss include increased difficulty hearing in noisy situations, others complaining that the TV is too loud, and frequently asking for people to repeat themselves. Even if you are unsure if you have hearing loss, it is always a good idea to get an audiometric test to objectively measure your hearing.

Why is hearing so important?

  • Conversation
  • Cognitive Health and Agility
  • Safety and Awareness

If you suspect you, or someone you know, are hard of hearing and are having increasing difficulties engaging in conversations, it is important to get it checked as soon as possible. 

More and more studies are showing that untreated hearing loss can lead to memory and cognitive decline of up 5 times faster than average. As the population ages and modern medicine enables us to live longer, we want to ensure we are ageing well and living as comfortably as possible. With research showing the links between hearing loss and cognitive decline, depression, anxiety, and many other comorbidities, it has never been more important to check your hearing health.

Finally, hearing loss does not only affect our hearing and cognition, but also plays a role in our safety and awareness. Balanced hearing allows us to determine the direction sounds, providing spatial and environmental cues to keep you safe when walking or driving. Studies have also shown that even a mild loss can triple your risk of falls over the age of 40. Another important safety consideration is knowing when the fire alarm, carbon monoxide detector or doorbell is ringing. Thankfully with technology advances today there are devices with flashing lights or vibration motors to alert you in an emergency. 

In summary, hearing is not only important for understanding speech but also plays a vital role in maintaining healthy mental, social and physical wellness. For more information about hearing loss and dementia, visit dementia.org.au.

Share this page!

Oticon’s NEW SmartCharger

Oticon’s NEW SmartCharger

Oticon’s new SmartCharger finally provides a portable charging solution for Oticon More hearing aids. Packing around 3 extra charges for your hearing aids, they are a perfect companion for anyone who loves travelling, camping or just someone who needs a backup battery in a pinch.

Features and Drawbacks

The Oticon SmartCharger sports a robust case and strong magnets to hold the hearing aids in place. Its large size makes it easy to insert and handle however it isn’t as pocketable as other options on the market. Now we’re out of lockdown if you’re looking for an extra accessory to make travelling easier. Pick this up today!

For more information on the Oticon More Hearing Aids, please see our full review here.

Share this page!

5 signs of investing in hearing aids

5 signs of investing in hearing aids

Are day-to-day conversations becoming harder to follow? It may be time to invest in your aural health

Hearing is a fundamental part of daily life. It affects our ability to communicate with others, interact with the world and perceive potential dangers in our surroundings. Without this critical sense, all of the sounds we take for granted – the ones that inform our critical decision making, like approaching cars or blaring fire alarms – disappear into stark silence.

The impacts of hearing loss can be far-reaching, whether the diagnosis is mild or profound. In Australia, the Department of Health estimates that 3.6 million people suffer from some form of hearing loss. Perhaps more astoundingly, they believe that 1.3 million of them live with an aural condition that could have been treated. Why? Because many dismiss the common symptoms of hearing loss.

Thankfully, modern technology has made hearing impairment easier to remedy than ever before. Many diagnoses once considered permanent can now be helped with hearing aids.

Here are five common signs that it may be time to invest in a hearing device.

1. You watch people’s lips to understand what they’re saying

It’s natural to watch a person’s mouth as they speak to clarify what they’re saying – particularly if you’re in a noisy space – but if you struggle to understand any speech without visibility of the speaker’s mouth, your hearing may be compromised.

Often people with hearing difficulties don’t even realise their reliance on lip reading until they’re left to interpret speech alone. Try listening to dialogue without looking at the speaker to test whether you’re able to follow along, or get lost without the visual aid. If you fail to keep up, a simple hearing aid may work wonders in filling the gaps in your comprehension.

2. You find group conversations impossible to follow

Group conversations are stressful at the best of times. From competing sounds to loud voices yelling over one another, it can be tricky for those with hearing loss to follow along and decipher conversation. Add the fact that group catch-ups tend to take place in public spaces with background noise, and you’re in for a challenge. 

There are various methods which may ease hearing difficulties, such as moving conversations to a quiet space, or asking your friends to speak slowly, but these are stop-gaps and not long-term solutions. 

3. You need the volume up loud or subtitles on to watch TV

Watching television can be particularly challenging for those with hearing difficulties. Of course, higher volume and closed captions can ease the frustration of missing key dialogue on screen, but it hardly matches the experience of comprehending speech in key scenes as they unfold. 

The depletion of hearing is one obvious reason why you may struggle to watch television without subtitles, but there are other contributing factors, too. These days, movies and television programs are heavily produced and typically feature loud background music to build suspense or create a mood. If the volume of background music is too high or the frequencies too similar, it’s common for all sounds to blend into indistinguishable noise – particularly for those with hearing difficulties.

Thankfully, hearing aids can correct this problem for many people and bring enjoyment back to the living room.

4. You find long conversations draining

One common, yet often overlooked symptom of hearing loss is the feeling of fatigue after long periods of conversation. Studies in this subsector of audiology are relatively limited, but preliminary results by leading experts, Professor Fred Bess and Benjamin W. Y. Hornsby, suggest that ‘sustained speech-processing demands in a noisy environment,’ can result in significant fatigue – both in children and adults.

If you find yourself overcome by tiredness after a long day of listening, it’s probably an indicator that you’d benefit from a hearing aid product. 

 

5. You struggle to hear people on the phone

Do phone calls conjure feelings of dread in the pit of your stomach? For many with hearing loss, whether diagnosed or not, speaking on the phone is one of the biggest challenges they face day-to-day. While it’s easy to chalk this difficulty up to phone volume or line clarity, there’s a scientific reason behind it. 

Current mobile phone technology transmits between 300–3,400 hertz – just a fragment of the audible sound spectrum. However, parts of human speech can contain much higher frequencies. Any sounds which sit above that range may therefore not be transmitted. Linda Kozma-Spytek – a senior research audiologist at Gallaudet University – explained to the Philadelphia Inquirer that those with regular hearing can “fill in the gaps subconsciously,” while others with hearing difficulties may not be able to discern between words which sound similar. 

So, if your phone volume is cranked up to maximum but you still find yourself asking ‘pardon?’ everytime you take a call, it might be time for an audiology appointment. 

Share this page!

Choosing a Hearing aid: 5 key things to consider

Choosing a Hearing aid: 5 key things to consider

So, you’ve taken the first step down the road of hearing loss treatment and consulted an audiologist. What’s next?

Receiving a hearing impairment diagnosis is life-changing – even for those who have long suspected they had serious auditory issues. For most, the hardest part is adjusting to their new reality. From the sheer number of hearing aid devices on the market to the countless brands, features and technologies that differentiate each, there is so much information to sift through before making an investment.

There aren’t many certainties when it comes to hearing loss, but one thing is for sure: the nature of the condition will determine the best remedy. There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment. Some diagnoses require surgical intervention, while others will benefit from hearing aids alone. Those diagnosed with profound hearing loss may be better
suited to a cochlear implant. (1)

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form of permanent hearing impairment and is caused by damage to inner ear structures or the auditory nerve. Due to its prevalence, many assistive technologies have been developed specifically to restore hearing for sensorineural sufferers. (2)

If you’ve been diagnosed with sensorineural hearing impairment, there are likely hundreds of devices on the market that may be suitable for you. On the contrary, if you suffer from a more niche aural issue, such as auditory neuropathy – whereby the inner ear struggles to send sound to the brain – you’ll likely need a specialised aid. Speak to your audiologist for advice relevant to your condition. (3)

Choosing a hearing aid doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you’re in the midst of researching devices, the following key pieces of advice will help you to determine which product is best for your needs.

1.Your hearing requirements

Before selecting a top-of-the-line device based on looks and features alone, it’s crucial you take the time to discuss your hearing difficulties with your audiologist so they can assess your condition and recommend suitable treatment options. Most importantly, your specialist will set reasonable expectations as to the level of improvement you can expect to gain.

Many hearing devices are designed to combat specific symptoms – such as tinnitus – so there’s no use investing in a product that may not suit your needs.

2.Features and technology

Modern hearing aids are far more than sound amplification tools. While this remains their core role, many devices on the market boast advanced features far beyond what many users expect. These include things like rechargeability – rather than battery power – smartphone connectivity, extended life and wind noise reduction.

Your specific hearing needs will likely dictate the features your device will be equipped with. So, it’s a good idea to discuss your diagnosis with your audiologist and make a list of the most beneficial technologies for your requirements

3.Budget

Cost is, unsurprisingly, one of the biggest prohibiting factors in obtaining treatment for hearing loss. Most hearing aids range from AU$1,000 to more than $6,000 each, depending on the sophistication. That’s a significant sum for most, but when you consider that devices often have to be updated every few years, it’s even more substantial.

Data analysis in the United States has shown that ownership of hearing aids is lowest among financially disadvantaged populations, with many specifically signaling prices as major obstacles. (4) (5)

Thankfully, in Australia, there are tax and private health fund rebates available, along with financial assistance for pensioners and veterans. Many audiology clinics also offer payment plans. For more information and eligibility, read our pricing page.

4.Hearing aid type

Once you’ve picked a device that’s both affordable and suitable, the next step is to choose a style. There are three main types of hearing aids: daily wear in-the-ear (ITE), daily wear behind-the-ear (BTE) and extended wear. Each has its pros and cons and comes in an array of styles.

Daily wear ITEs are very small devices, fitting snugly into the ear or ear canal. They’re typically recommended for mild to moderate hearing loss. The second type – daily wear BTEs – are the ones you’ll probably recognise. They wrap around the outside of the ear, with a tube directing sound inside. Extended wear hearing aids like the Lyric Invisible Hearing Aid are the most versatile, as they can be left in during all sorts of activities, from showering to exercising and wearing headphones. Take some time to consider which type will best accommodate your lifestyle.

 

5.Aesthetics

Both technology and medical understanding of the ear have improved exponentially over the last few decades. Say goodbye to the bulky, old-fashioned hearing devices of yesteryear. Today, you can select a hearing aid that looks sleek without blowing your budget.

Invisible in the canal (IIC) and completely in the canal (CIC) devices are the most visually appealing choices, as they’re practically undetectable from the outside. However, BTE devices are just as stylish these days and can be custom-made to match the users skin tone, style or hair colour. ​

For more advice on how to select a suitable hearing aid, click here.

Key References 

1.“Effectiveness of Cochlear Implants in Adults with Sensorineural Hearing Loss,” NCBI. Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK285762/

2.“About Hearing Loss,” Deafness Foundation. Source:
https://www.deafness.org.au/about-hearing-loss#:~:text=Sensorineural%20hearing%20loss%20is%20the%20most%20common%20type%20of%20permanent%20hearing%20loss

3.“Auditory Neuropathy,” National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. Source:
https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/auditory-neuropathy

4.“Opening the Market for Lower Cost Hearing Aids: Regulatory Change Can Improve the Health of Older Americans,” NCBI. Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC488023/#bib9

5.“Determinants of Hearing Aid Acquisition in Older Adults,” AJPH. Source: https://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/abs/10.2105/AJPH.2010.300078

Share this page!