As lockdown continues, and we face another few months of life without access to our traditional gym settings, I have been inundated with questions regarding training strategies that can be implemented at home.
Tinnitus is a common phenomenon characterised by a phantom ringing in the ears, that cannot be attributed to any other external source and other people usually can't hear it.
It has a wide range of presentations, from a buzzing sound to whooshing to something like radio static in the ears. It can pulse like the sound of a heartbeat in the head, be a low hiss like an overheated radiator, or high and shrill like a dog's whistle. It can come and go, be in one ear or both, change on the hour or with location or be a constant din.
The condition is most often treated as a non-life-threatening annoyance. However, a quick search online reveals thousands of Tinnitus sufferers describing their harrowing ordeals with a condition that has robbed them of peace of mind and altered their daily lives.
Data reveals that tinnitus affects people’s job performance and concentration and it can also lead to anxiety, depression and impaired sleep. Tinnitus frequently precedes hearing loss and those who have it are also more likely to develop Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
Soldiers are also an at-risk group because military combat exposes them to several of the known causes of Tinnitus.
For example, the obvious common denominator among military vets with tinnitus is a history of exposure to the sounds of explosions, which can also cause hearing loss. Loud noises can bend or break the tiny, delicate hair cells that line the spiral cavity of the inner ear (cochlea)—so tiny that 1,800 could easily fit onto the head of a pin. Sound waves move these hairs, and the movement triggers electrical signals along the nerve from your ear to your brain, which interprets the electrical signals as sound.
The risk of chronic tinnitus is three times higher in people with consistent exposure to loud noises at work and twice as high in those with ‘recreational’ exposures.
Young people who listen to loud music with earbuds or headphones or through mobile phones are at a higher risk for ear damage and should consider using headphones at a lower, more safe volume.
Any new occurrence of Tinnitus should be investigated quickly as it can, very rarely, be a sign of an underlying nasopharyngeal cancer and it’s important to have this ruled out.
Occasionally “pulsatile” Tinnitus—the kind that makes a heartbeat or rhythmic thumping noise—is a signal of heart disease, hypertension or some other restriction of blood supply.
A sinus, ear infection or nasal congestion from a bad cold or flu can result in a fluid build-up, creating extra pressure in the middle ear which can lead to hearing loss or Tinnitus.
Although Tinnitus may begin as an injury to the ear cells, it’s now widely accepted that the condition has implications beyond the ears to the brain. Parts of the brain in Chronic Tinnitus are working more often, not relaxing and disengaging from surrounding stimuli, creating mental fatigue.
There have been reports of increased cases of tinnitus post covid infection (14.8%) and post-vaccination for COVID-19.
What can you do about it?
Sometimes just having the ear gently suctioned to remove impacted wax can help restore muffled hearing or tinnitus buzzing but do not try to remove wax yourself with cotton buds (Q-tips) as they can do damage and compact any wax, so be careful cleaning ears.
At Walnut Grove, Andrew Bird Hearing specialists come to the clinic two days a week to use micro-suction for wax removal and they also do hearing tests and fit hearing aids when required.
A few drops of olive oil in the ear may also be enough to soften the wax. Warm it slightly first, apply into to the ear, then put a cotton swab over the ear or an old towel on your pillowcase to prevent it from leaking out. We always ask people to do this for 7 days before coming for wax removal.
Other things that might help are:
There is no one simple answer – that is why there are so many things that some studies, have been shown have some effect.
Research is moving forward all the time and if you have tinnitus, I wish you well on your journey to a quieter world.
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