Tinnitus is the auditory perception of sounds heard when no external sound is present. It is usually described as a ringing, buzzing or hissing sound. Tinnitus may be an intermittent or continuous sound in one or both ears. Persistent tinnitus is tinnitus that lasts more than six months. Prior to any treatment, it is important to undergo a thorough examination and evaluation by your otolaryngologist (Ear-nose and throat specialist) and audiologist.

Tinnitus is not a disease in itself but a common symptom, and because it involves the perception of sound or sounds, it is commonly associated with the hearing system. In fact, various parts of the hearing system, including the inner ear, are often responsible for this symptom. Tinnitus can often have a specific cause such as a sensory-neural hearing loss, other times the cause of it is less clear.

  • Common causes of Tinnitus

    • Hearing loss
    • Ear wax
    • Exposure to loud noise
    • Ear and sinus infections
    • Otosclerosis
    • Ototoxic medication
    • Acoustic trauma
    • Acoustic Neuroma
    • Meniere’s disease
    • Thyroid problems
    • Cardiac/vascular problems
    • Temporomandibular joint arthralgia (TMJ)
    • Certain medication including commonly used over the counter medications.
    • Depression/Anxiety
  • Treatment for Tinnitus

    Although there is no set cure for tinnitus, there are several options available to assist a person in managing their tinnitus. This will be dependent on the cause of tinnitus.

  • Tinnitus Management

    Successful tinnitus management is a result of retraining and relearning.

    Once the tinnitus loses its negative connotation, however loud it has been, or however unpleasant it may seem, it DOES begin to diminish, and in many cases may not be heard for long periods of time.

  • Sound Therapy / Wearable Sound Generators

    These devices help you to gradually reduce your focus on the tinnitus sound by promoting habituation and shifting the focus away from the tinnitus.

    We know that the brain can habituate. For example when someone moves onto a busy road or lives close to an airport, initially, they will hear the cars/aeroplanes. After a number of months of being exposed to these sounds, the brain decides that these are not important sounds and places them in the background.

    The tinnitus signal is perceived as less important and the mind pays less attention to it. This means that habituation has taken place and the tinnitus is no longer the focus.

  • Digital Hearing Aids

    In particular open-fit digital hearing aids can help with tinnitus management by compensating for a person’s hearing loss as well as masking the uncomfortable noises affecting tinnitus patients.

    Often individuals with a high frequency hearing loss suffer from Tinnitus.

    Open fit hearing aids allow for the amplification of the higher frequencies primarily and in doing so literally ‘fill in the gaps’ of the frequency range where the hearing is impaired. The auditory system therefore does not have to compensate for the hearing loss which results in persistent tinnitus. Hearing aids are a successful method for treating tinnitus associated with hearing loss.

    By providing amplification in this frequency range the individual is often far less aware of the presence of tinnitus and at the same time the hearing is improved for high frequency sounds, therefore serving a dual purpose.

  • Avoid Silence

    Tinnitus is exacerbated by silence.

    Most tinnitus is first heard at night, or a quiet room. Persistence of tinnitus depends not only on the meaning attached to it, but also to the contrast it creates with the auditory environment. For example a small candle in the corner of a large darkened room seems to be dazzlingly bright, until the room lights are switched on making it virtually invisible.

    Everyone, especially tinnitus patients should avoid extreme silence, and retraining programs will always use sound enrichment. Make sure there is always a pleasant, non-intrusive background sound (like a large slow fan, or an open window, or a device generating nature sounds).

    Choosing what sound is right for you may take some time. Nature sounds are always best, as they are already habituated, and usually stimulates a feeling of relaxation, calmness and well-being.

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What our patients say

  • I just want to say a very big thank you for all your efforts to ensure that I received both my hearing aids without any effort on my side, via GEMS. I am sure that if I had tried this on my own, it would have led to much frustration. Your kindness and support is greatly appreciated. You really do a wonderful job and it is noticed!

    — Addy Harris
  • Baie, baie dankie vir die skitterende proffessionele verslag wat jy deurgestuur het. Dankie vir die empatie, en dat jy ‘n stukkie pad saam met my gaan loop.

    My filosofie was nog altyd : as ek weet wat verkeed is kan ek aangaan en it begin hanteer; dis juis jou earlike kommentaar m.b.t die agteruitgang wat getref het.

    Trane het geloop maar dit gaan al heelwat beter. Daar is nog soveel om voor dankbaar te wees; en dit sluit jou empatie in.

    Ons gesels weer.

    — Joekie


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