What is Tinnitus?
The classical definition of Tinnitus is the “perception of internal noises (mainly localised in the head) in the absence of external acoustic stimuli” (Hallam, Rachman, and Hinchcliffe, 1984, p31). The word itself comes from a Latin verb, tinnire which simply means “to ring”.
The noise may be heard in one ear, both or simply somewhere in or around the head. The sound heard can and does vary a great deal between people. For some it is a high frequency whine, a dull rumbling or pulsing. Others still may hear more coherent sounds such as snatches of song, turbine engines or steam trains. Sometimes there can be more than one noise, or a different noise in each ear. The sound can be there all the time, or come on intermittently.
There are a number of theories regarding the actual nature of the sounds and where they come from. The most prevalent and consistent feature of all the theories is that there has been a change in the resting activity within the auditory system, i.e. the random firing of the nerves that go on all the time throughout the body increases either in it’s rate or it’s strength, and that this change in activity gets interpreted by the conscious part of the brain as sound.
This change can come about as a result of a loss of hearing, increase in chronic stress, wax blockage, exposure to loud noise as well as a vast range of other life events.
Importantly, the signal itself is a normal one and has been show time and time again to present in almost everyone. It’s the change in the rate of activity and our reaction to this change that causes the trouble.
Additionally there are a few conditions that produce Tinnitus like noises but are caused by some change in the ear itself, such as a spasm in one of the tiny muscles in the middle ear.
The sense of hearing evolved primarily to help us to survive. It enables us to detect the presence of predators or attackers and respond rapidly to defend ourselves. The sensation of sound therefore is very strongly linked to our emotions and to our overall state of arousal (or stress-levels).
When we hear Tinnitus then we frequently perceive it to be a threatening or warning sound and so our mind and body enter into fight or flight mode, just as though we were being subjected to a physical threat.
This raised level of stress combined with the unpleasant noise can make us worry that there is something very serious going on which in turn makes us attend to the sounds even more and monitor them for changes.
The cycle of monitoring, worrying and increased stress-levels can sometimes make the Tinnitus affect us very powerfully, particularly as we can feel or believe that there is nothing we can do to modify or control the sounds.
What is Hearing Therapy?
Hearing therapy came into being in 1978 in response to the 1974 ACSHIP Committee Report, which expressed ‘deep concern at the extent to which rehabilitation services for the hearing impaired are lacking in the NHS’. Since then the field of rehabilitation in Audiology has become more recognised and developed, with a related body of knowledge and appropriate skills being defined and refined both academically and in the clinical environment.
A Hearing Therapist is someone who trains people with all degrees of hearing loss to improve their communication skills
Has an understanding of Tinnitus, Hyperacusis and Hearing Impairment
Has an holistic, person centred approach i.e. does not rely solely on hearing tests or aids to help improve their clients communication skills
In their counselling role, a Hearing Therapist works with individuals (and their relatives and carers) who are affected by an acquired hearing loss through age, Menieres disease, trauma or surgery. This counselling helps people to come to terms with their hearing loss and to develop new strategies and ways of dealing with situations. It also helps them develop ways of helping themselves and maximising their communication abilities.
The Hearing Therapist compiles a specialised rehabilitation management programme to meet an individual’s communication needs. They liaise with the Audiologists and Social Service for provision of equipment as required, or with the disability employment advisor for work purposes.
Communication training is used for individuals, families and friends to encourage changes in communication strategies and to acquire better skills in using residual hearing. This can include instruction in lip-reading, auditory training and hearing tactics.
I’ve heard of Habituation, what is it?
This is the process through which we are able to change our initial response to a stimulus over time. For example the first time you put a new ring on your finger it can feel very large and you are always conscious of its presence. Over time, although the nerves below the ring are still being stimulated your brain begins to take less and less notice of the signals generated until you can completely forget you’re wearing it.
Although habituation to the Tinnitus signal can and does occur naturally the negative reaction, thought and beliefs can act to slow down this process. The main goal of any Tinnitus management program is to facilitate and speed up this habituation process.
Hearing Therapists demonstrate and offer information about all types of assistive-listening devices, which are available to help with hearing in the home or work etc. These include devices to help ‘hear’ the TV, doorbell and telephone. Some devices can be provided by social services, although this can be subject to certain criteria.
What is Hyperacusis?
Hyperacusis is an over-response of your Auditory system to what other people may consider to be a normal level of noise
Is there a link with Tinnitus?
Although they can both occur independently roughly 10% of people with Tinnitus also report some over-sensitivity to noises that don’t disturb those around them
What is Sleep Hygiene?
Some people who experience Tinnitus also report difficulty in getting to sleep and maintaining sleep. Sleep Hygiene is a method for restoring a natural rhythm of sleep and improving the quality of sleep, often without recourse to sleeping tablets prescribed by your doctor
Is my Tinnitus Treatment covered by my Private Medical Insurance or Medico-Legal claim?
Treatment for Tinnitus can often be funded by your PMI providers or through your Solicitor as part of a claim.
Do I need to see an ENT Specialist?
If your Tinnitus has recently started, or has changed significantly from its normal levels medical advice should always be sought as soon as possible. You can also receive advice and support to manage your symptoms and gain relief immediately through Hearing Therapy Ltd without affecting your medical referral in any way