Often described as a woosh, hiss or ringing sound, tinnitus is the perception of sounds even when there is no external noise present. Known to affect a considerable number of people in the population (1), tinnitus doesn’t have a single cause and is experienced by each person differently. Main causes of tinnitus include:
What can make tinnitus worse?
Research has found sometimes diet can impact the severity and duration of tinnitus. Anything from alcohol and cheese to too much salt or sugar in your diet can affect certain people. By monitoring your tinnitus as well as what your eating patterns are, you may notice a trend in certain foods effecting your tinnitus more than others.
Stress/anxiety and fatigue are commonly known to make tinnitus worse; relaxation and resting can often reduce the intensity of tinnitus.
Exposure to loud noises (eg music, machinery, factory work) can not only result in heightened tinnitus, but can also do damage to your permanent hearing. The use of hearing protection such as ear plugs or muffs can reduce the impact noise has on your hearing system.
Certain medications can either result in the development of tinnitus or can make existing tinnitus worse. Consult your medical practitioner or specialist to determine if anything can be done about this.
Treatment options for tinnitus vary depending on the cause of the tinnitus. Hearing devices can assist in reducing the severity of tinnitus associated with a hearing loss while tinnitus maskers or noise generators can help distract the listener from focusing on it. If the tinnitus is due to a treatable medical cause, often medical management by an Ear Nose Throat specialist is recommended. Tinnitus Retraining Therapy is a method which aims to teach the brain to ignore the tinnitus through the use of psychological training and a device. Intervention by a trained psychologist may be required in cases were a person’s tinnitus has become distressing to them (cognitive behavioral therapy).
For more information, you can visit the Australian Tinnitus Association at http://www.tinnitus.asn.au/. Having some concerns with your tinnitus? Come and arrange an appointment to speak with one of our audiologists or ENT surgeon.
Hearing losses are often described as being either congenital or acquired; congenital losses are present at (or soon after) birth while acquired losses occur later on in life. It is dependent on the affected areas within the hearing system which determine how the hearing loss as categorized.
The main types of hearing losses include:
Conductive: Conductive losses can be caused by damage or blockages in the outer ear, middle ear or both. Typically affecting the loudness of sounds, a conductive loss interferes with the ability for sound to pass into the inner ear. The degree of hearing loss varies depending on the cause of the conductive loss; typically causes include wax blockages, abnormal bone growths, ear infections or from a perforated eardrum. Conductive losses can be treated by medical means (eg medication or surgical options) or with hearing technologies (eg bone conduction hearing aids).
Sensorineural: Sensorineural hearing losses are caused by damage or a malfunction within the cochlea (permanent hearing organ) or along the hearing nerve. This can be from natural wear-and-tear (aging/presbycusis), accidents, diseases, certain medications or excessive noise exposure. Almost always permanent, there is rarely any medical management for sensorineural losses aside from hearing devices like hearing aids, or cochlear implants.
Mixed: A mixed hearing loss is seen when there is a problem in both a conductive and sensorineural hearing loss present. Eg a conductive loss from an ear infection as well as a sensorineural loss from presbycusis.
Processing Disorders: Often present from early childhood, Auditory Processing Disorders (APD) arise when the brain has difficulties recognizing and interpreting the meaning of sounds (eg speech).
If you haven't had your hearing tested in a while or have noticed a recent change, why not come in for a check-up. Routine assessments are strongly recommended for monitoring purposes regardless of your age; we can assess from 6 months of age up to adults. Contact the clinic to arrange an appointment today.
All children born in Australia are required to undertake a comprehensive hearing assessment within the first few weeks of birth (eg NSW has the SWISH [State Wide Infant Screening Hearing] Program) which allows for the early identification of any congenital hearing difficulties and encourages prompt intervention for these children. Some children may be more likely to experience hearing loss, especially those:
Even if children passes this newborn test, they can still develop hearing problems throughout childhood. There are multiple causes of hearing loss in children, many of which can be corrected through medical intervention (eg wax or fluid buildup). Some signs of hearing difficulties to be aware of may include:
It is recommended that children have their hearing tested regularly during childhood and throughout their schooling life (with some schools even requiring a base-line test to be completed before a child can start kindergarten). Rates of hearing loss for school-aged children in Australia have been found to be between 3.4% and 12.8% (1) where even a mild undiagnosed hearing impairment can significantly influence their academic outcomes (and employment prospects) as well as their ability to develop language, speech, emotional and social connections.
If you are in any way concerned with your child’s hearing ability, further investigation may be warranted. Feel free to contact the clinic to arrange a full pediatric hearing assessment with one of our qualified audiologists.
(1) Choi, S.M.R., Kei, J., & Wilson, W.J. (2016). Rates of Hearing Loss in Primary School Children in Australia: A Systematic Review. Speech, Language and Hearing. doi: 10.1080/2050571X. 2016. 1259199
Earwax (or cerumen) is normally secreted by glands in the ear and important in lubricating the ear canal, removing excess dirt, and protecting the inner portions of the ear from insects, fungus and water. Everyone generally produces different amounts of wax and for most people, the ears are “self-cleaning” – as skin in the ear grows outwards, it drags the wax out too. There are some people who can develop excessive wax build up and it is best removed by someone who has had proper training (ie your GP, ENT or audiologist). Typically, before the wax is removed, wax softener (bought from a chemist/pharmacist) should be used to ensure the wax is extracted easily. There are three main techniques to remove wax:
Cotton buds should NEVER be used to clean the ear canal. They typically push the wax further into the canal, compacting it and causing more problems. Buds can also result in scratches along the canal walls, hearing loss, ear infections and even eardrum perforations. Ear candling should also NEVER be attempted. While it is claimed to help remove wax, ear candles have been found to have no scientific impact on earwax, often resulting in burnt ears, infections, and candle wax dripping into the ear (1).
Should you feel your ears are blocked with wax, contact your doctor for further investigation. If the wax be too deep or impacted, a referral to an ENT is advisable. Following wax removal, if your hearing still appears impaired, a full investigation by our audiologists can be arranged. Contact the clinic for more details.
1. Seely, D.R., Quigley, S.M. & Langman, A.W. (1996). Ear candles – efficacy and safety. Laryngoscope, 106, 1226-1229.
The most common cause of preventable hearing loss is from exposure to loud noises (this includes anything from machinery and loud music). The amount of exposure you have to a noise and the volume of it will influence how much of an impact it has on your ears long-term. The Australian standard for noise exposure is if you are exposed to noise at 85dB (decibels), then the time of exposure should be limited to no more than 8 hours. For every increase of 3dB in volume, exposure length is halved (eg at 88dB, exposure time should be no more than 4 hours). As a general rule, the louder the noise is, the less time you can spend exposed to it before it starts causing permanent damage.
The National Acoustic Laboratories (NAL) has created a tool to allow anyone to calculate their risk of developing a hearing impairment based on their lifestyle listening habits. For more information, visit knowyournoise.nal.gov.au. While this website should not replace clinical hearing assessments, it is useful to investigate your lifestyle and offers helpful tips on how to manage your listening risk.
What can we do to manage our listening risk? Hearing protection is important as your hearing needs to last you your lifetime. Reducing the volume of the sound source and exposure time you are around this noise can help reduce the impact it has on your hearing. Here at the Sydney Hearing Services clinics, we encourage everyone to be aware of their auditory surroundings and can provide personal hearing protection for a variety of uses.
Contact the clinic for more details or to arrange an appointment
It’s the beginning of the year and many of us have established New Year’s Resolutions to become fit and improve our health. Annual health checks are generally recommended to keep your body in top physical condition, and often include blood pressure, eye and teeth checks. But what about your ears? Many people may not know how often to have their hearing checked while others may never have had theirs tested.
Hearing loss is a natural occurrence and effects everyone differently. It is typically gradual and often goes unnoticed until major difficulties are experienced or those closest around you say you are not hearing them well. Not only can hearing loss affect a person’s ability to communicate and stay socially connected, but it can also have a drastic effect on their quality of life (1), with research finding that untreated hearing losses can lead to significant cognitive decline (2) as well as embarrassment and social isolation (3). As soon as you feel there is any change in your hearing, a full diagnostic assessment with one of our audiologists is recommended.
Earlier identification and management of a hearing loss can mean significantly better outcomes in the long run. If you have never had your hearing tested, an initial baseline test is recommended for future comparisons. From this test, your audiologist will initially determine if there is any level of hearing loss as well as the overall health of your ears before advising you when to return for reassessment. As a general rule of thumb, hearing tests are recommended every 2-5 years depending on your age and hearing.
Noticed a sudden change in your hearing? Last-minute appointments can be arranged with our audiologists for further investigation.
Contact the clinic for further information or to arrange a hearing test with one of our clinicians today.
(1) Ciorba, A., Bianchini, C., Pelucchi, S., & Pastore, A. (2012). The impact of hearing loss on the quality of life of elderly adults. Clin Interv Aging, 7(6), 159-163.
(2) Lin, F. R., Yaffe, K., Xia, J., Xue, Q. L., Harris, T. B., Purchase-Helzner, E., Satterfield, S., Ayonayon, H.N., Ferrucci, L., Simonsick, E.M. & Health ABC Study Group. (2013). Hearing loss and cognitive decline in older adults. JAMA internal medicine, 173(4), 293-299.
(3) Mick, P., Kawachi, I., & Lin, F. R. (2014). The association between hearing loss and social isolation in older adults. Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, 150(3), 378-384.