Tinnitus Awareness: Understanding and Living Well with Tinnitus

Tinnitus awareness week is usually observed in February and this campaign aims to educate the public about the causes, impact and management of tinnitus. 

Tinnitus symptoms vary widely among individuals, with phantom sounds like ringing, buzzing, roaring, whistling, humming, clicking, hissing, or squealing. These sounds may occur in one or both ears and in the head, ranging from soft to loud and low to high pitched. Tinnitus can be constant or intermittent, and certain movements or touches may temporarily alter the perceived sound. In most cases, it's subjective, only audible to the affected individual. In rare cases, rhythmic pulsating sounds, often synchronized with the heartbeat, may be heard by both the person and a doctor using a stethoscope, indicating objective tinnitus, usually with an identifiable cause that may be treatable. 

Tinnitus, the perception of sound without an external source, varies in nature and can disrupt sleep, cognition, and emotional well-being. While its links to depression, anxiety, and insomnia are recognized, the exact connection remains unclear. Most cases lack a cure, especially in chronic forms, and spontaneous resolution is rare. Although rarely a sign of a serious medical issue, tinnitus can impact mood, sleep, and concentration for some. Severe cases may lead to anxiety or depression. 

Tinnitus has various potential causes and common factors include: 
  1. Noise Exposure: Exposure to loud environments, like workplaces or concerts, can lead to tinnitus. It's a prevalent issue among veterans due to gunfire, machinery, or explosions.
  2. Hearing Loss: Tinnitus is strongly associated with hearing loss caused by factors like aging (presbycusis) or exposure to loud noise.
  3. Medications: Certain drugs, especially at high doses, may induce tinnitus. These include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs, and antidepressants.
  4. Ear Issues: Earwax blockage or fluid from an ear infection can trigger tinnitus.
  5. Head or Neck Injuries: Injuries to the head or neck can damage ear structures, nerves carrying sound signals, or areas of the brain processing sound, leading to tinnitus. 

Less common risk factors include conditions like Meniere's disease, jaw joint problems, tumor-related disorders like Vestibular Schwannoma, blood vessel problems, and chronic conditions such as diabetes, migraines, thyroid disorders, anemia, and autoimmune disorders like lupus and multiple sclerosis. 

While many causes are known, some individuals may develop tinnitus without a known reason. 

The Role of Diet and Nutrition in Tinnitus: 

While there's no specific diet that can cure tinnitus, paying attention to certain foods and substances may help manage its symptoms. Here are considerations: 

  1. Triggers:
    • Certain foods high in salt, caffeine, or artificial sweeteners, along with substances like alcohol and nicotine, have been reported to increase tinnitus intensity for some individuals. 
  2. Individual Sensitivity: 
    • It's crucial to be attuned to your body and identify any trigger foods or substances that may worsen tinnitus symptoms. What affects one person may not impact another, emphasizing the importance of individual sensitivity.
  3. Balanced Diet:
    • Maintaining a balanced diet is key. Incorporate a variety of nutrient-rich foods to support overall health.
  4. Reducing Triggers:
    • Reducing the consumption of potential triggers can contribute to alleviating the impact of tinnitus on daily life. 

While diet may not cure tinnitus, being mindful of what you consume can play a role in managing symptoms and improving overall well-being. 

Preventative Measures for Tinnitus: 

Protecting ear health is crucial for preventing tinnitus and adopting certain practices can significantly reduce the risk of its development. Here are key measures: 

  1. Ear Protection in Loud Environments:
    • Use ear protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs, in loud environments like concerts or construction sites to minimize exposure to potentially damaging noise levels.
  2. Avoid Prolonged Exposure to Loud Noises:
    • Limit time spent in environments with continuous loud noises and take breaks to allow your ears to recover.
  3. Regular follow-ups with an Audiologist:
    • Schedule regular check-ups with an audiologist to monitor and maintain optimal ear health.
  4. Moderate Volume:
    • Listen to music or audio at a moderate volume to prevent damage to the ears.
  5. Noise-Cancelling Headphones:
    • Consider using noise-cancelling headphones to reduce exposure to external noises.
  6. Awareness of Everyday Noise Exposure: 
    • Be mindful of everyday noise exposure, such as traffic or household appliances, and take steps to minimize their impact on your ears. 

By adopting these preventative measures and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, individuals can significantly reduce the risk of developing tinnitus and preserve overall ear health. Understanding tinnitus, seeking timely diagnosis and treatment, and incorporating these healthy habits contribute to effective management and a regained sense of well-being. Book for an appointment now for a one-to-one consultation with audiologist at 20dB Digisound. 


Written by: Mohana, Audiologist at 20dB Digisound