At some point (and for no apparent reason), we have all experienced ringing in our head or ears that may sound like a buzzing or a noise that does not come from an external source. For example, we may hear it while in a quiet place or room after having been to a concert or a nightclub.
When this phenomenon becomes something permanent, this is called tinnitus. For many people it doesn’t pose a problem and they become used to it; however, for others it can cause difficulties with hearing, sleeping, working or even lead to anxiety.
In Spain, around 4 million people suffer from tinnitus, among half of whom require psychological treatment that reinforces information patterns and habituation to tinnitus.
The causes of tinnitus can be diverse; it could stem from an ear infection, a build-up of earwax, use of certain ototoxic medications or prolonged noise exposure, or even spine issues, emotional or nervous system disturbances.
Our bodies emit internal sounds that we become aware of through the subcortical filter. This filter spontaneously prioritises these sounds and treats them as important (when they are in fact background sounds), which in turn leads to sensory overload. This occurs in 15% of cases.
Around half of people with tinnitus have it located in a single ear, with the left ear being the most affected. The other half perceive the noise in both ears, and sometimes even in the head.
The Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI) is used to measure the severity of this disorder, which consists of a simple form that we conduct in our center. Despite the test’s validity, it is also recommended to carry out an assessment of the upper vertebrae and temporomandibular joint to rule out other conditions.
Tinnitus and hearing loss
Tinnitus is associated with hearing loss in 90% of cases, although the patient may not be aware of this. Tinnitus can also occur without associated hearing loss. Ultimately, having tinnitus does not mean that the patient will become deaf.
In Spain, around 4 million people suffer from tinnitus, among half of whom require psychological treatment that reinforces information patterns and getting used to tinnitus.
Treatment and solutions for tinnitus
One of the most common and highly effective treatments for tinnitus is Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), developed 25 years ago by Dr Pawel Jastreboff.
TRT is a process of habituation, meaning becoming used to and learning to cope with tinnitus, until the person is no longer conscious of this noise. According to Dr Jastreboff, “Although the central nervous system ends up processing this sound as important, the brain can be taught to stop processing it with that meaning and move it to a subconscious level.” Here at the José Luis Domínguez Hearing Centre we offer various solutions to improve the quality of life for those who suffer from tinnitus.
After our team performs the THI test, we will determine if it is necessary for the patient to undergo a tinnitus exam to assess the frequency and intensity of tinnitus. This test will reveal the most appropriate treatment for the patient.
Also, the use of hearing aids in cases of hearing loss helps to relieve tinnitus symptoms as they allow the user to focus their attention on ambient sounds to distract from their tinnitus.