3 key points about tinnitus

Tinnitus refers to any type of noise in the ear such as whistling, ringing, clicking, background noises, etc. that we pick up in addition.

Tinnitus is not usually a symptom of a serious disease, but it is recommended to see an ENT specialist if it does not go away after 24-36 hours to rule out a hearing problem in the first place.

Symptoms of tinnitus

It may occur in one or both ears. The tone may be constant, change in intensity or be of a pulse-like character. The most frequent are usually high-pitched. In the cases in which they bother, they can alter the sleep and interfere with the concentration and accomplishment of daily activities.

Causes of tinnitus

In many cases tinnitus is simply the symptom of an ear disease. It disappears if it is allowed to heal completely. In other cases tinnitus is a phenomenon that has no apparent reason and is found more frequently in industrialized countries. It is therefore clear that noise pollution and the pace of modern life are certainly partly to blame.

About 15% of the population suffers from tinnitus or tinnitus ringing and up to 50% of the population perceive such noises in the ear at specific times. The older we get, the more likely we are to suffer from tinnitus. But in most cases, it is not bothersome and no specific treatment is necessary.

Treatment of tinnitus

Acute tinnitus (for more than three months) can be treated with medication, while for chronic tinnitus there is currently no effective pharmacological treatment. If tinnitus is caused by hearing loss, it can be reduced when hearing is restored through the use of hearing aids.

In those patients in whom there is significant mood impairment, psychological or psychopharmacological treatment to reduce anxiety, improve depression, is essential.

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The current treatment for chronic tinnitus is retraining therapy (TRT). The principle is that the cause of a tinnitus annoyance is the alteration of its processing at the central level in the auditory pathway, so tinnitus is a perceptual problem and treatment requires two steps:

  • Eliminate the negative significance that tinnitus has for the patient, getting it to become a neutral signal and an irrelevant stimulus for the brain. It is important to understand that it is a tinnitus and that the objective is not to eliminate it completely, as this is unlikely, but for the patient to forget about it. They are practiced with the help of psychologists or psychotherapists, distraction strategies and methods of overcoming stress with relaxation, yoga, tai-chi or qigong.
  • Sound therapy with the objective of achieving that the tinnitus remains at a level in the auditory pathway that is not perceived and stops bothering. For sound therapy, if there is no hypoacusis (reduced hearing capacity), sound generators will be used, small electronic devices that are placed in both ears and that emit white noise (constant sound formed by the whole spectrum of sound frequencies). They should be used between five and six hours a day, always without masking the tinnitus and at a comfortable level for the patient. They are also used when there is hyperacusis or decreased tolerance to external sounds. In all cases it is recommended to avoid silence by means of sound enrichment of the environment with music, radio, background television, etc.

In 90% of the patients who follow the indications, the tinnitus discomfort is removed, returning the patient to his or her usual quality of life.