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 assessment test and tinnitus treatment」

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「Introduction to tinnitus-related hearing products」

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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.

Should I clean my ears with cotton buds?
What the audiologists say:

Naturally the earwax moves slowly out of your ear canal. Using cotton buds can push the earwax deeper into the ear canal. It is advised to see an ENT specialist for earwax removal if you feel you have a problem with earwax.

Dr. Nelson Wong
What should I do if my ears always feel wet?
What the audiologists say:

It is suggested to consult an ENT specialist if such problem lasts for a long period of time.

Dr. Nelson Wong
Can tinnitus be cured?
What the audiologists say:

It is important to understand that tinnitus is a symptom rather than an illness, so the problem of tinnitus can only be alleviated.

Dr. Nelson Wong
What are the differences between an over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aid and a hearing aid from a hearing aid company?
What the audiologists say:

In a hearing aid company, a hearing test will be done at the beginning, then the hearing aid is set according to the hearing level. More importantly, lifelong fine-tuning is offered; while if you buy an OTC hearing aid, that hearing aid is not customized to the hearing level and no after-sales service is provided .

Dr. Nelson Wong
Will it be too noisy when wearing a hearing aid?
What the audiologists say:

For a first-time hearing aid user, he/she has not been hearing some background sounds for various periods of time owing to the hearing loss, so when putting on the hearing aid, the the background sounds being amplified may sound too loud at the beginning . When the user gets used to the hearing aid usage, he/she may feel better. Additionally with the advancement of noise reduction technology, hearing aid user shall have a much comfortable experience.

Dr. Nelson Wong
Does sleeping with earphones affect my hearing?
What the audiologists say:

When you are sleeping with earphones every night, your ears will be constantly stimulated by music, so after a long period of time, the hearing may be affected eventually.

Dr. Nelson Wong
What is the characteristics of sound?
What the audiologists say:

Sound or noise has two characteristics: Frequency (i.e. pitch) and Loudness

Dr. Nelson Wong
What is frequency?
What the audiologists say:

Sound is the quickly varying pressure wave induced by particle vibration through a medium (air, liquid or solid). The number of pressure variations per second is known as frequency of sound, measured in Hertz (Hz).

The higher the frequency i.e, the more cycles of vibration per second, the higher the pitch. On the other hand, the lower the frequency, i.e., the fewer cycles of vibration per seconder, the lower the pitch would be. The audible frequency range of human ear is from 20 to 200,000 Hz while the major frequencies for speech lies between 500 –4,000 Hz.

Dr. Nelson Wong
How to measure loudness?
What the audiologists say:

Loudness of sound is determined by the degree of particle vibration. A loud sound usually has a larger pressure variation while a weak one has smaller pressure variation. A simpler way is to measure in decibel (dB). The softest sound a normal human ear can detect i s known as the Threshold of Hearing, which uses the hearing threshold as 0 dB.

Dr. Nelson Wong