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Tinnitus Week: Understanding Tinnitus and its Impact on Quality of Life

Tinnitus awareness week is usually observed in February and this campaign aims to educate the public about the causes, impact and management of tinnitus. 

Tinnitus is defined as a sound perceived in the ears or head without an external sound source. The sound is very subjective, and it's also known as ‘ringing in the ears’, buzzing or whistling sound. Tinnitus sound can vary in term of frequency and duration. Its intrusive nature can interfere with the lifestyle of the affected individual irrespective of age and gender. 

Tinnitus is not an illness, but it is believed to be a symptom of an inner ear problem or an abnormality in the hearing pathways to the brain. When there is damage in the inner ear, it starts to produce sounds to replace what we are supposed to hear naturally.  

The cause of tinnitus can include 

  • Wax build-up in the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Medication
  • Head and neck injury
  • Ear infection 

Some studies have found that prolonged noise exposure to excessively loud noise from personal listening devices and recreational activities can also generate tinnitus. 

Tinnitus is an invisible condition, proves challenging for those unfamiliar with it to grasp its impact. Individuals grappling with tinnitus often endure significant distress particularly when the continuous ringing in the ears become a constant presence. This persistent sound can markedly affect the quality of life with reported common effects include 

  • Feeling depressed
  • Irritability
  • Interference in social activities
  • Hearing difficulty
  • Feeling confused
  • Disruption of daily activities and jobs 

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet is essential. A healthy body not only fosters a healthy mind but also provides a beneficial distraction from the challenges of tinnitus through exercise. Additionally, introducing background noise such as white noise, relaxing music or radio can help soothe the mind and not concentrate more on sound of tinnitus. 

Research indicates that hearing aids play a vital role in minimizing the impact of tinnitus. These devices amplify external sounds and include tinnitus masker features which effectively divert the brain’s focus away from the constant ringing. By alleviating tinnitus symptoms and enhancing communication, hearing aids contribute to an overall improvement in quality of life. 

In conclusion, taking steps such as wearing hearing protection, minimizing exposure to loud noises and reducing volume levels can effectively safeguard our ears and prevent aggravation of tinnitus. 

Balqis, clinical audiologist at 20dB Hearing 

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