To mark Tinnitus Awareness Week, BIHIMA has identified five common misconceptions on the issue:
Tinnitus is not just ringing sound.
The word “tinnitus” may derive from “tintinnabulum”, the Latin word for “bell” from the verb tintinnare, which means “to ring, clang, or jingle,” but some people can experience buzzing, hissing, whistling, whooshing, chirping or clicking. There is also as musical tinnitus (when sufferers hear a familiar tune or song) and pulsatile tinnitus (which has a beat in time with a person’s heartbeat).
Tinnitus is not only experienced in the ears.
Tinnitus is just as often felt inside a sufferer’s head. In fact, tinnitus is actually a brain activity and not happening in the ear itself – it is a function of how the brain is processing signals received from the hearing nerves.
Tinnitus is more than a temporary discomfort after a loud night out.
30% of people will experience tinnitus at some point in life – most people think of lying in bed with a ringing sound after a loud concert or night in the pub. But 10% of people live with persistent tinnitus which affects their quality of life, sometimes to a debilitating degree. (And another myth: it’s not actually worse at night – that’s just when we’re more aware of tinnitus in the absence of the other sound distractions!)
Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease.
Tinnitus is usually the by-product of an underlying condition. In fact, hearing loss is the leading underlying cause of tinnitus. One study carried out by Charité–Univeritätsmedizin in Berlin found that, of 531 tinnitus patients tested, only 6 did not have hearing loss. Therefore, if you experience tinnitus, it’s a good idea to have a hearing test. Other causes such as Ménière’s disease or wax build-up are explained here: https://www.tinnitus.org.uk/Pages/FAQs/Category/what-is-tinnitus
There is no cure for tinnitus.
There are, however, many strategies for managing tinnitus, including relaxation techniques, sound therapy, and other therapies such as CBT. Because tinnitus is often linked to hearing loss, hearing aids can help in many cases. Bilateral hearing aids (one for each ear) have been shown by studies to be the most beneficial. For more information about how hearing technology can help, see here: www.tinnitus.org.uk/hearing-aids-and-tinnitus.