The Tinnitus Service at Bradford Royal Infirmary provides information, counselling and advice about tinnitus and the strategies available that can be used to manage tinnitus to make it less intrusive.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a sound that is heard in either one or both ears or in the head, with no external cause.
What causes tinnitus?
There are many different causes of tinnitus. It can be linked to exposure to loud noise, hearing loss, injuries to the ear or head, some diseases of the ear, some illnesses or emotional stress. However, many people may experience tinnitus without ever having experienced any of these provoking factors, and may not have a hearing loss.
How to access the service
People are usually referred via an ENT consultant.
What do tinnitus appointments typically involve?
Your first tinnitus appointment will often involve a member of the Audiology team finding out more about the nature of your tinnitus and explore the feelings and difficulties it may be causing. Once the Audiologist knows more about your tinnitus they will go on to discuss the results of your hearing test and the mechanism of hearing, an explanation of the model of tinnitus and information and advice about the different strategies available to help manage it.
What help is available for tinnitus?
There are several things that can be done to help to manage tinnitus:
Knowing more about tinnitus and how the brain responds to the sound is an important stage in learning to manage tinnitus. In many cases when a person first hears tinnitus it can be quite alarming because it is an unknown sound and is strange and different to what is perceived as normal. It is often very reassuring to speak to someone who knows and understands about tinnitus. This can often be the first step in managing tinnitus.
- Sound enrichment
There are many forms of sound enrichment that can be used to help with tinnitus. Initially people often start to use radios, stereos and TVs to introduce sound into the environment to drown out the tinnitus. This can be helpful to start off with but the clinician will be able to provide information and advice about different sound enrichment devices that can be used. These devices introduce more passive background sound into the environment that can help the brain to learn to filter out the tinnitus.
Relaxation is an important component as some people find that it lowers their perception of the tinnitus. In the modern world we often lead busy and stressful lives and it can be difficult to make time for relaxation. Even when we do relax the forms of relaxation we choose often involve some active process that doesn't enable us to reduce our levels of anxiety or stress.
If I have a hearing loss, will wearing hearing aids help my tinnitus?
If a person with tinnitus has a hearing loss then hearing aids can be helpful.
Firstly hearing aids will make sounds, like speech, more audible and this will help to reduce the level of difficulty a hearing loss gives when listening to sounds around you. Hearing aids are also likely to reduce some of the anxiety or stress caused by tinnitus and hearing loss when it comes to communicating with other people.
Secondly, tinnitus is often more noticeable in quiet environments and, with a hearing loss, environments are likely to seem quieter as less sound is being heard. Hearing aids will help by allowing you to hear more environmental sounds, so that more information is available to the brain which makes it easier for the brain to ignore the tinnitus.