Tinnitus is the perception of a continuous beep, hum, whistle, buzz or other noise in the head or in one or both ears, without the presence of an external sound source. Someone else cannot hear the sound. Sometimes the sound varies in volume, sometimes it’s overruled by surrounding noise. Tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss.
The exact cause of tinnitus is often impossible to determine. The condition can be the result of prolonged exposure to (too much) noise, but also of defects to the ear, brains or temporomandibulair joint. In addition, it occurs as a symptom of other diseases or develops as a side effect of certain medications.
The main symptoms of tinnitus are the constant rustling, beeping, humming or whistling sounds that a person hears. As a result of this nasty sound, the person can also experience the following symptoms:
The diagnosis is difficult to make, since tinnitus cannot be measured or objectified. By hearing or vestibular tests, blood pressure measurements and optionally scans, the doctor may try to explain the condition.
Unfortunately, there is no treatment that cures tinnitus. Therefore, it is important that the patient mentally overcomes his or her own tinnitus entirely or partially. The presence of a psychologist with knowledge and experience in the field of tinnitus is essential for proper treatment. A psychologist, specialized in tinnitus, who works with an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist, is also a good combination.
When tinnitus is accompanied by hearing loss, a hearing aid can be a solution. In the treatment of tinnitus, use is sometimes made of masking. Here, people who suffer from severe tinnitus are looking for a sound that is louder than the beep in the ears, so they actually suffer no longer from the tinnitus anymore.
Recent research has shown that a combination of therapies is the most effective. This includes cognitive behavioral therapy, elements of the Tinnitus Retraining Therapy, education and explanation, application of masking or hearing aid, counseling, dealing with anxiety, group therapy, exposure, stress reduction, mindfulness and relaxation exercises. The composition of the treatment depends on the nature and severity of the symptoms of each individual patient.
Despite all kinds of therapies, the disease doesn’t cure in many cases. Improvement is usually the result of successful treatment of the underlying causes or of the successful use of medicines, masking techniques or special devices. The hearing loss associated with tinnitus may be permanent and irreversible.