Tinnitus Awareness Week: Does tinnitus mean I have hearing loss?

Tinnitus is defined as “the hearing of sound when no external sound is present”. It is one of the most common complaints reported to hearing healthcare professionals, affecting up to five million Australians according to Better Hearing Australia.

Tinnitus is certainly associated with hearing loss: as the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners say, “a large proportion of patients with tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss”. That doesn’t mean, though, that if you have tinnitus, hearing loss is always also present.

No matter which kind of symptoms you are experiencing, Starkey’s solutions could help you relieve the effects of tinnitus.

Similar channels, but not always the same

To hear, sound is funnelled through the outer and middle ear to the inner ear. Microscopic hair cells inside the inner ear are responsible for carrying sound through auditory nerves to the brain. Hearing loss can occur at any stage of this process: the outer ear, the middle ear, the hair cells, the auditory nerve or the brain.

tinnitus-awareness-ear-diagram

Tinnitus, too, can be caused at any point in the process! For example, tinnitus can be caused by a wax impaction in the ear canal; it can be caused by middle ear disease such as fluid or Meniere’s Syndrome; it can be caused by damage to the hair cells in the inner ear; and it can be caused by inappropriate firing of nerve cells within the brain.

Because both hearing loss and, likely, tinnitus are caused or triggered by the same ‘malfunction’ in our hearing system, there’s a good chance that if you have tinnitus, you’ll also experience hearing loss. We see that often. But not always.

Why? Because there are other triggers for tinnitus that aren’t caused by problems with the ear. For instance, medications (particularly high doses of aspirin), stress, high blood pressure, heart disease and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disfunction can cause tinnitus.

See your GP and an audiologist

If you are experiencing tinnitus, a visit to your GP should be the first stop in finding a cause. Because hearing loss is often associated with tinnitus, ruling out hearing loss makes sense, and so you should also follow the GP visit up with an audiology assessment.

If hearing loss is detected, it is likely that the tinnitus is related to the hearing loss, and many of the best ways of dealing with hearing loss can also help you deal with tinnitus. You can look at our website to find out more about the solutions Starkey has for dealing with tinnitus and hearing loss.

References

Current Trends in the Treatment and Management of Tinnitus, Better Hearing Australia, June 2018
A review of tinnitus, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, April 2018

Images:

https://www.istockphoto.com/au/photo/young-woman-disturbed-by-loud-noise-pollution-gm182025785-20649014
https://www.istockphoto.com/au/photo/ear-canal-graphic-isolated-on-white-background-gm461772563-32155868

By Starkey Australia

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