Tinnitus and Hearing Loss
Know More About Tinnitus

Approximately 10% of Hong Kong population (7 millions) have experienced tinnitus

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the ears or head when no external source is present. It is a symptom but not disease. Tinnitus characteristics varies, it can be intermittent or persistent, with single or multiple tones, loudness can range from subtle to shattering or changes according to the surrounding background noise. Besides, it can occur monaurally, binaurally or centrally in the head.

Tinnitus could co-exist with hyperacusis which is an abnormal oversensitivity or discomfort when exposed to loud sounds commonly encountered in daily life.

Causes of Tinnitus

1. Hearing Loss

Tinnitus is common among people with hearing loss. With deteriorated hearing, the surrounding environment becomes quiet and tinnitus easily standout. Same thing occur in normal hearing individuals, when they enter a sound proof room for hearing assessment, 95% of them experience tinnitus. Around 60% to 70% of hearing impaired person reported tinnitus relief after wearing hearing aids for a period of time. For people working or living in noisy environment, tinnitus is an early sign of damaged hearing. Not only construction workers, long-hour use of earphones or headphones for music and professional musicians are at higher risk for tinnitus.

Causes of Tinnitus

2. Another cause

Besides hearing impairment, ear wax occlusion, ototoxic medication, cold, ear and/or sinus infections, Eustachian tube dysfunction, nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC), Meniere’s disease, acoustic neuroma, head and neck trauma, jaw injury, sleep apnea, migraine (accompany by dizziness, mainly in female), gastroesophageal reflux etc. are possible causes of tinnitus.

In addition to the abovementioned physiological or pathological causes, tinnitus could have psychological underlying relating to negative emotions and stress. Some theories suggest the link between tinnitus and emotions. Some people experience tinnitus when stressed, while depressed and/or anxious individuals may also have tinnitus. Since tinnitus and emotion are interrelated, stress could make tinnitus sounds louder, while a loud tinnitus make one even stressed. In view of this, tinnitus rehabilitation usually includes stress management as one of the element.

Tinnitus Management

Chronic tinnitus suffers should consult an otolaryngologist (ENT doctor) for medical assessments to rule out any pathological causes of tinnitus. If tinnitus persists after medical intervention or no pathological causes found, patients can undergo hearing and tinnitus evaluation and tinnitus management program conducted by audiologist to improve the quality of daily life.

Tinnitus VS. Ear Blockage

Tinnitus and ear blockage are two distinct symptoms. Tinnitus refers to internal sounds while ear blockage is caused by external factors, such as change in air pressure, cold etc. If you have persistent tinnitus and/or ear blockage, consultation with doctor and/or specialist is recommended.