Signs & Symptoms
Patients have describe the sound that they perceive in the ear or head in many different ways, such as ringing, whistling, vacuuming, hammering, buzzing and humming sounds.
About the condition
Tinnitus is the perception of sound in the human ear or head in the absence of external sounds. There are many descriptions, such as ringing, whistling, vacuuming, hammering, buzzing and humming sounds. It affects a large proportion of adult population. 1 – 2% of tinnitus sufferers undergo the following experiences:
- Disturbance of sleeping patterns.
- Anxiety and depression.
- Inability to relax and concentrate.
- Sensitivity to loud sounds and noises.
- A negative impact on work, family and social life.
Q: When do I need to see an ENT doctor for my tinnitus?
- When medical and/or surgical contraindications are not present.
- You or family members are worried or concerned about the “non-stop” tinnitus.
- Your sleep, concentration and general health is affected.
Q: What are the benefits of tinnitus treatment?
- Short treatment process.
- Easy to use device.
- Benefits that last.
Diagnosis and Treatment Options
Treatment depends on the type of hearing loss and degree of disturbing tinnitus. The treatment can be in the form of hearing aid, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), Neuromonics tinnitus treatment, counseling and educational support.
Generally, the treatment involves stimulating the hearing pathways affected by tinnitus or hearing loss with a customized music therapy that interacts with the tinnitus to provide relief, concentration, focus, as well as quality sleep.
Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment
For chronic tinnitus sufferers, we are the first hospital in Singapore to bring in a form of acoustic stimulation therapy called Neuromonics. This treatment first introduced in Australia and has been shown to be very successful in ‘desensitizing’ patients towards their tinnitus. The therapy consists of sound stimulation coupled with counselling and it is a six-month program.
The results of clinical trials with tinnitus and decreased sound tolerance showed that over 90% reported:
- A relief from their tinnitus
- Ability to sleep well
- A sense of control over their tinnitus
- A decreased sound disturbance from tinnitus
Generally, the treatment involves stimulating the hearing pathways affected by tinnitus or hearing loss with a customised music therapy that interacts with the tinnitus to provide relief, concentration, focus, as well as quality sleep.
The treatment program is designed to interact, interrupt and desensitize tinnitus disturbance for long-term benefits. It is recommended that patients listen to the MP3-like device for several months, 2-3 hours a day when the tinnitus is most disturbing. The stimulus is embedded and transmitted at specific intervals coordinated with customised-designed music. The idea is to desensitize the brain’s limbic system until patients achieve habituation and gain relief. The treatment can take place while reading, relaxing, attending to house chores, computer work or before going to bed. During the treatment process, constant reviews will be scheduled with the audiologist for further assessment and observation of patients’ progress.
The treatment stimulus is unique for every individual as it is customised to the hearing, as well as the tinnitus characteristics.
During the treatment, patients are guided through an interactive and progressive programme of care with the audiologist, as they adjust to each stage of treatment.
Q: What is the duration of the tinnitus program?
It is a 6 months program involving the following stages:
- Pre-conditioning stage (first 2 months) – use of special shower sound to interact with the tinnitus.
- Active stage (subsequent 4 months) – constant interaction with the tinnitus.
At the end of 6 months program, the patient enters the maintenance stage, in which he/ she would be able to manage without clinical support.
Hearing aid may have dual functions. It helps to improve hearing acuity, as well as clearer speech understanding. It can also be used to cover the tinnitus effect. However, it may be unsuitable for people with a reduced sound tolerance level, and sensitivity to loud, unpleasant sounds and/or noises.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) has been widely used for many years. The approach is to desensitize the tinnitus via a broadband tinnitus masker, along with a specific course of counselling to retrain the brain of sufferers until they are habituated to the tinnitus, and it is no longer disturbing. However, it involves personal dedication and commitments, as the therapy may be long-term and time-consuming.
Counselling & Educational Support
If the tinnitus is not so serious, the patients can see a counsellor or a psychologist for direct counselling program, and educational support. The aim is to provide advice and information about tinnitus; explain what self-help strategies are available for patients and how they work; current medical treatment and management, as well as availability of group support and facilities.