In the first week of February, Tinnitus Awareness Week is held to raise awareness of a lesser understood ear condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus can affect anyone but it’s more common in people who are older or who already experience hearing loss.
- Tinnitus Awareness Week is held in the first week of February each year
- Tinnitus can affect anyone but it’s more common in older people or those who already experience hearing loss
- Statistics highlight high rates of depression in Australians with tinnitus which may be up to 33 percent
Tinnitus Awareness Week is held in the first week of February and this falls between February 5 and February 11 this year.
Tinnitus is a condition in which a person experiences a ‘ringing’ sensation in either one or both of their ears that is not caused by an external noise. Although tinnitus symptoms can affect anyone, this problem is more common in older adults and in people who experience hearing loss.
While ‘ringing’ is often described as a symptom, other sounds can fall under the same category and include ‘buzzing,’ ‘humming’ and ‘roaring.’ For some people, these internal sounds may be constant or they may ebb and flow, causing unpredictability of symptoms.
As the severity and frequency of tinnitus symptoms can vary, statistics on Australians who exhibit symptoms also vary. However, in 2023, 8.4 percent of Australians experienced hearing loss and tinnitus symptoms which were classified as causing disability.
For this reason, NDIS funding may provide support for Australians who experience severe hearing loss that impacts their daily functioning. Advanced-level hearing devices to assist with severe hearing loss may also have functions that include tinnitus reduction. However, some Australians may find it difficult to acquire funding for tinnitus symptoms that are not constant because ‘[…] to be eligible for NDIS funding, the disease or medical condition must cause permanent impairment.’
There are many different possible reasons for a person to develop tinnitus, however, in some cases, the cause is still unknown. However, the most common causes of tinnitus may include: being exposed to loud noises, internal ear problems, extreme stress and some medications.
To reduce one’s likelihood of getting tinnitus, there are some important precautions for all Australians to take:
- avoid staying in loud areas;
- take regular breaks to reduce exposure;
- ensure that you use earplugs if a sound is greater than 85 decibels, such as hairdryers or power lawn mowers;
- reduce your general stress levels as this can be a possible cause of tinnitus;
- only listen to music through noise-cancelling headphones at a low level for no longer than a total of 90 minutes per day.
While there is not yet a treatment available for tinnitus, there are ways that Australians can help reduce their symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic in 2022.
Using a white noise machine — which produces a static-like sound — can be effective and can help reduce the noticeability of symptoms at night when falling asleep.
Additionally, working through behaviour therapy may be beneficial as it can help one change their thinking patterns related to tinnitus disturbance and also reduce depression symptoms that may have developed as a result of tinnitus.
This is why Australians who experience tinnitus symptoms should also monitor their mental health because a large systematic review of tinnitus studies ‘suggests a 33 percent prevalence of depression among patients with tinnitus.’
While there appears to be a correlation between tinnitus and depression, more research is required to understand the exact connection. However, one suggestion is that tinnitus can cause a reduction in quality of life and the lack of available treatments may be adding to stress levels.
While it’s important to seek help regarding tinnitus symptoms that affect your quality of life, if you experience related dizziness, vertigo or ringing in your ears similar to a heartbeat pattern, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Additionally, any ‘ringing’ in the ear/s that lasts longer than a week should be seen to by a health professional promptly.