If you visit the NHS.uk website tinnitus section you will find a small amount of fairly generic but reasonable advice regarding tinnitus. There is the usual advice to seek an urgent medical opinion if your tinnitus came about through a head injury, is associated with dizziness or beats in time with your pulse. It also suggests seeing your GP if it is disturbing you, getting worse or is always there.
There are routine do’s and don’ts to help you such as trying some deep breathing, sleep improvement techniques and considering joining a support group. You can also follow links to some national charities where there is further advice and support available.
The main treatment recommendations are different therapeutic approaches to tinnitus rehabilitation.
You will additionally find a brief discussion on the causes of tinnitus. Most of these can be discussed with your GP or ENT Consultant. Crucially it also mentions hearing loss which is often one of the precursors to tinnitus if not sometimes the driving force.
Across the UK it is fair to say that tinnitus treatment is something of a post-code lottery for NHS patients. There are centres of excellence and areas where there is no one with a special interest or training. Unfortunately there isn’t a national tariff for tinnitus treatment and so it up to each Audiology department to decide if they can fund treatment and to what extent.
We know for a great many patients that accurately correcting their hearing loss can significantly help to reduce their awareness of tinnitus. This is because there is simply more information travelling up the auditory nerve from outside sources so internal noise seems quieter by comparison. All Audiology departments will offer hearing aids although some may require a certain degree of hearing loss (>35dBHL average) or may only fit one ear.
Generally for tinnitus patients the more light and open the fitting is in the ear the better. This is so that internal noises are not trapped inside the head – known as the occlusion effect. In most cases NHS hearing aids have a range from 200Hz to around 8,000Hz which is fine for amplifying speech alone. Where someone has a very low or very high frequency hearing loss modern private hearing aids can offer an extended range from 100Hz to around 9,600Hz enabling more relevant masking ambient sound to travel up to the brain as well as a more natural tone to speech and music.
In some areas hearing aids with tinnitus therapy sounds are also available. These normally employ a variation of white noise that can be shaped for differences in pitch and volume. This sound enrichment can be very valuable in helping both to control and feel in control of your tinnitus but needs an experienced Audiologist to set up to be used safely and effectively. More modern hearing aids also have the ability to stream much higher quality sounds directly from a mobile phone tinnitus application. These can be highly individualised by the wearer and changed whenever necessary from with the application. The most recent private devices are beginning to more closely resemble small music ear buds rather than traditional hearing aids and are becoming increasingly efficient at features such as noise cancellation and speech enhancement.
For a full tinnitus assessment and free trial book an appointment with one of our experts at Tinnitus UK