The British Tinnitus Association (BTA) states that the word 'tinnitus' comes from the Latin word for 'ringing' and is the perception of sound in the absence of any corresponding external sound. To those who suffer from this condition it is simply the annoying ringing that is driving you crazy! The constant irritation of tinnitus is often a source of great distress for many sufferers, affecting their daily life both socially and at work. Sleep patterns can also be disturbed as the noise often seems much worse when the environment around you is quiet.
Tinnitus itself is not a disease, but usually a side effect of another ear condition and the exact cause is still unknown. Many people have experienced this at some point but in a lot of cases it is temporary. It can come on after a sudden loud noise or after going to a club or concert. There are two main types of tinnitus
Subjective - This is when only the sufferer hears the sound. This type of tinnitus is often noise induced or could be a side effect to some medications.
Objective – This type of tinnitus means that the sound can also be heard by others. This is often the result of muscle spasms and sometimes seems to pulse in time with the heart beat (pulsatile tinnitus).
At the moment there is no actual cure for this condition but there are many products and techniques specifically designed to ease the problem.
When it comes to hearing aids, some manufacturers are now incorporating technology into their products to help ease the symptoms of tinnitus. They are equipped with programs that will produce harmonic tones that help to mask the irritating ringing or buzzing sounds, making it easier to cope.
Two examples of hearing aids with tinnitus technology are:
Resound Alera TS – This hearing aid has a TSG (Tinnitus Sound Generator) which produces sounds which actively draw your attention away from the irritating ringing.
Widex Dream – These have a feature called Personal Zen which uses a range of tones to mask the symptoms of your tinnitus.
Please note that hearing aids should not be used exclusively as a solution to tinnitus. They can only help with the symptoms if you are also suffering from a hearing loss.