Tinnitus

Tinnitus is the term used to describe hearing any sounds which are not present externally. It is most commonly heard as ringing, hissing, buzzing or clicking, and can be a single sound or a number of different sounds.

What is tinnitus?

Research has shown that almost everyone develops temporary tinnitus in an abnormally quiet environment (such as a sound proof booth) and instructed to pay attention to any sound they may hear.

An increased awareness of tinnitus usually occurs because it changes in some way and becomes louder or more frequently present. This is most commonly associated with the development of a hearing loss or a change in hearing. Tinnitus can develop from a range of medical conditions affecting the auditory system, including tonic tensor tympani syndrome (TTTS), certain medications and neurological conditions.  It can develop from stress affecting the jaw joint and be enhanced by periods of high stress and fatigue.

Tinnitus can become significant if:

  • it becomes perceived as intrusive, irritating or distressing
  • there is an increase in active tinnitus monitoring
  • people doubt their ability to cope with their tinnitus
  • they develop high levels of tinnitus-related anxiety/distress.

Myriam Westcott was interviewed for the ABC Radio National Health Report on tinnitus, along with leading neuroscientists at the cutting edge of research and a person with tinnitus who describes her tinnitus experience.

Myriam Westcott was interviewed for The Saturday Paper on the increased level of tinnitus impact during the pandemic.

Tinnitus habituation

Most people will spontaneously habituate or adapt to their tinnitus over time, so that while it may be heard, attention is rarely given to it and emotional acceptance of it is achieved. This process involves a gradual increase in the periods of time where the tinnitus is not noticed, as well as a gradual reduction in any annoyance or distress it may cause.

Sometimes people can become stuck in this process and are unable to habituate to their tinnitus as fully as they would like. Some people can find their tinnitus distressing or even traumatic; their reaction to it overwhelming; and do not know how to control the way it affects them.

Credible therapeutic approaches to tinnitus management aim for tinnitus habituation to be achieved.

Our Tinnitus Program

Myriam Westcott and Kate Moore provide an individualised program to assist you in achieving tinnitus habituation and management of your reaction to it, utilising our extensive experience and research in providing tinnitus therapy.

We address any fears you may have of your tinnitus by providing you with an understanding of it, an analysis of your emotional reaction to it and reassurance with regard to your ability to habituate to it.

Our program involves:

  • an evaluation of the tinnitus and its impact on you individually,
  • taking a thorough history of your tinnitus and associated issues,
  • a hearing assessment,
  • providing detailed information about your tinnitus: including an opinion about the possible cause; some of the factors that affect tinnitus fluctuation or make you more aware of it; an opinion as to why you may not have been able to habituate to it.
  • a detailed and personalised explanation of the peripheral and central auditory system, your hearing test results and the neurophysiological basis of tinnitus-related distress and annoyance.
  • therapy program for managing your tinnitus.

Therapy

Practical self-management strategies known to lead to tinnitus habituation, personalised to suit your individual coping style, will be developed with you. This may involve the use of hearing aids; sound enrichment strategies; counselling in cognitive management strategies and training in stress management and relaxation.

Specific techniques to cope with periods of heightened awareness and/or increased volume of your tinnitus will be given.

For many people, the information and guidance provided in one appointment may be sufficient to move towards tinnitus habituation. For this reason, our initial appointment time is one and a half hours. However, the time involved in a program will vary, depending on the level of your reaction to your tinnitus and the on-going guidance and support you may require.

Myriam Westcott is the only clinician in Australia invited to contribute to “The Multidisciplinary European Guideline for Tinnitus: diagnosis assessment and treatment” Cima et al, 2019.  Prominent neuroscientists and clinicians in the tinnitus field, as well as tinnitus patients, contributed to this guideline, designed to set worldwide standards for the provision of tinnitus therapy.

Tinnitus and hearing loss

People with a hearing loss often blame their tinnitus for their hearing problems, particularly when communicating in groups and in background noise. The tinnitus is a symptom of the hearing loss, not the cause. If you have a hearing loss, then hearing aids will be effective in both the management of your hearing loss and your tinnitus. Hearing aids, by amplifying external sounds around you, will result in your internal noise, or tinnitus, becoming less noticeable. Programs producing a range of different noises or sounds are now available in a number of contemporary hearing aids.

The efforts of straining to hear a conversation and the resultant communication difficulties frequently lead to frustration, fatigue and stress. These are all major aggravating factors in tinnitus awareness and annoyance. 

Once you have adapted to the amplification provided by your hearing aids, you can expect a significant reduction in stress and fatigue. 

Tinnitus Australia

Tinnitus Association of Victoria (TAV)

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