Tinnitus Service

The tinnitus clinics run by the Devon Audiology service are led by specialists who are qualified in Tinnitus counselling and trained in Tinnitus Therapy.  Staff regularly attend courses to update their knowledge in the advances that are being made in the treatment of tinnitus.  We offer modern therapeutic approaches for patients with troublesome tinnitus.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is classified as the perception of sound that does not come from an external source.  Each patient will describe their tinnitus differently, with sounds that might include ringing, buzzing, humming, hissing, rushing, whining, clicking, droning and occasionally music.  Tinnitus can also beat in time with the patient’s pulse and this is known as pulsatile tinnitus.  Tinnitus can sound like it is in one ear, both ears or coming from within the head.

What is hyperacusis?

This is when someone has a reduced ability to tolerate sound.  People with hyperacusis often find everyday sounds uncomfortable or unpleasantly loud, sounds which are not generally loud to others.  This might include visiting a supermarket or running a tap.

What causes Tinnitus and Hyperacusis?

There are may cause of tinnitus and hyperacusis.  Some are related to physical problems of the ear or areas around the ear, neck or jaw caused by factors such as infections, degenerative factors or trauma.  Commonly, tinnitus can be associated with some form of hearing loss.  Another common trigger of tinnitus can be life events which may have resulted in a degree of stress in that patient’s life.  Such events could include illness, operations, retirement, divorce, moving house or bereavement.

Tinnitus can be distressing for some people, whilst others can live with it and are not unduly troubled by it.

The Tinnitus Clinic

Many patients are told that there is nothing that can be done about tinnitus and that they just ‘have to learn to live with it’.  This is untrue.  While there may not be a magic pill to cure it yet, there are many ways to manage tinnitus so that it becomes less intrusive in the individual’s life.  This is the aim of tinnitus therapy.  To minimise the distress caused by tinnitus and devise coping strategies so that patients can live richer lives without the tinnitus taking over and controlling them.

Tinnitus therapy is a combined approach between you and the Tinnitus counsellor.  Management plans will be negotiated so that they are personalised and realistic to the individual.  One size does not fit all!  You will be encouraged to adapt the advice and develop your own techniques using the guidance given.

The initial appointment will last between 60-90 minutes with a detailed history taken about your tinnitus, a thorough hearing assessment and a discussion about the impact it is having on your life.  You can expect to be asked some detailed questions about the experience of tinnitus, for example:

  • What does your tinnitus sound like?
  • Is it continual or intermittent?
  • How long have you been experiencing these sounds?
  • Were there any significant things going on in your life when you first noticed it?
  • How does if affect your concentration or sleep?
  • What coping strategies do you already use?

By asking questions like these, the tinnitus counsellor can help build a treatment plan, in terms of what might be the best strategies for helping patients to manage their tinnitus.  These questions also help to explore views that patients have about their tinnitus and whether these are realistic and helpful.

Tinnitus therapy looks at the way the brain is involved in this perception of sound.  It is important to see the relationship between the physical, mental and emotional impact of tinnitus and how this can help people get used to or ‘habituate’ to their tinnitus, just like any other sounds in the environment but which may not always be desirable or necessary to hear e.g. clocks ticking or fridge motors.

The therapy prescribed will depend on the needs of the individual and the cause of the tinnitus.  Understanding and having some information about your tinnitus is the first step towards effectively managing it and for some, simply knowing why they have tinnitus is all that is needed to reduce anxiety levels and actually help improve the perception of the tinnitus.

Further follow up appointments will be made as and when required.

Sound Enrichment

This is a common technique used in the treatment of tinnitus and enabling patients to become less sensitised and habituate to the tinnitus.  This is the use of low level background noise (for example a radio, music, fan, nature sounds) to reduce the perceived loudness of the tinnitus and provide relief.  This can be used both day and night – generally during periods of quietness.  We can loan bedside noise generators for patients to ‘Try before they buy’.  These produce the sounds of nature such as rainforest, waves and babbling brooks to name a few.  These can help patients who struggle either getting off to sleep or on waking during the night.

The Tinnitus counsellor may suggest trying digital hearing aids if a hearing loss has been detected or white noise generators which may be beneficial again with the desensitisation process.  We are also able to provide hearing aids combined with white noise generators in the same device.

Counselling will also be provided about relaxation and better sleep techniques.  Patients will be given information about how to purchase equipment such as relaxation CDs.

It may be appropriate to refer patients to an ENT consultant, for an MRI if necessary and sometimes onward to the Psychology team.  Again, this will depend on the individual case, the cause of tinnitus and the impact it has had on the patient’s quality of life.

Where can you be seen?

If you do have problems with Tinnitus, you may choose to have you appointment at one of the following locations:

Bideford Hospital

Holsworthy Hospital

North Devon District Hospital

Tiverton Hospital

How to get a referral?

Ask your GP for a referral into the North Devon Audiology service.

Useful links

www.tinnitus.org.uk

www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk

Last updated: October 3, 2017