Subjective ear noise which occurs without external sound influence and is only audible to those affected is known as tinnitus. It is more of a symptom than an actual disease. However, the ear noise can be very uncomfortable and have a significant impact on the person’s quality of life.
Tinnitus is a relatively common phenomenon. It is estimated that around 20% of the Swiss population suffers temporarily from tinnitus during their life. The ear noise continues for a long period in 4%, and then becomes chronic. The exact cause of tinnitus is unknown. The only thing that is known for sure is that the cause does not lie in the ear itself but rather in abnormal activity of the nerve cells in the brain. This activity can be facilitated by different external circumstances. They include excessive noise, acoustic trauma, viral and bacterial infection as well as diseases of the middle ear and inner ear. Psychological factors such as stress can also facilitate the occurrence of tinnitus.
The ear noise which occurs during a bout of tinnitus can be individual in nature and differ in intensity from person to person. Those affected often describe the noise as whistling, humming, swishing or ringing. Only one ear or both ears can be affected. The constant noise can cause irritability, concentration difficulties or depression.
Tinnitus is diagnosed on the basis of the patient’s medical history and the symptoms. Hearing tests, balance tests as well as other examinations such as blood pressure and blood tests are carried out to rule out other diseases.
Tinnitus can be treated with different methods. They include psychotherapeutic, behavioural therapeutic exercises and acoustic methods. These methods are designed to help sufferers learn to ignore the noise or to look at it in a different way so they can live with it. Anti-inflammatory medication or medication which encourages blood flow can support these treatment methods. The treatment for tinnitus is challenging and requires patience; however, the ear noise can often be satisfactorily treated as a result.