Ask the Audiologist: What is tinnitus?

Hello, I’m Rex Banks
and welcome to ‘Ask the Audiologist’ —
it’s a web series that provides information and advice
on hearing health and related
assistive technologies. In this episode,
we'll answer the question: What is tinnitus
and how can it be treated? Tinnitus is the perception
of a sound that has no external source and can only be heard by
the person experiencing it. But how do we hear a sound
that isn’t really there? The answer is found in
our central nervous system.

Our central nervous system is in a
constant idle state, ready to respond
to any possible encounters. This idling causes
background “brain noise.” Most of us are unaware
of this noise until something triggers it and causes it to become audible. Your ears are always working, but they relax when they find
a soothing sound to listen to. They are geared to naturally
want to listen to sound and are always scanning the
environment for it. For people with hearing loss, the amount of sound they are
exposed to is reduced. This causes their ears to strain
to hear what’s around them. All of this straining increases their sensitivity
to brain noise which manifests as tinnitus. It’s important to understand
that tinnitus is not a disease, but rather a symptom. Some of the leading causes
are hearing loss, exposure to loud noises, ear trauma, stress,
and certain medications. Around 15% of the population
suffers from tinnitus, but the experience is unique to
everyone.

Noises like ringing,
humming, buzzing, or even cricket-like chirping
are all referred to as tinnitus. If you do have tinnitus,
you should avoid silence as it only intensifies
your sensitivity to it. For this reason, hearing aids
are often recommended as front-line
defense against tinnitus, since hearing aids expose people
with hearing loss to sound. For those who experience
tinnitus but don’t have hearing loss, custom ear sound generators
may be recommended. Another option is Tinnitus
Retraining Therapy, which retrains the subconscious
part of the brain to ignore tinnitus. This involves the use
of sound therapy along with education and
counselling, which helps to reduce stress
and anxiety about tinnitus. If you think you are
experiencing tinnitus, contact the
Canadian Hearing Society to book a
tinnitus consultation to learn more about the
treatment services we provide. That's all for this episode of
'Ask the Audiologist'. If you have a question
of your own that you would like answered
in a future episode, email me at
rbanks@chs.ca.

Thanks for watching!.

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