How Tinnitus Affects People 

People with tinnitus may display the following behaviour in the early stages:

  • frequent mood swings
  • depression
  • anxiety attacks
  • tension
  • irritability
  • frustration
  • poor concentration
  • sleep problems

extreme distress, especially in the early stages, is common. However, the tinnitus does not cause these problems directly. It is your emotional response that causes the problems. Modifying your emotional response eliminates the majority of these problems.

Critical Factors Affecting Tinnitus in the Early Stages

  • the quality of the medical examination (make sure that you research tinnitus as fully as you can before you attend your appointment with a medical practitioner).
  • comments made by members of the medical profession
  • the accuracy of the information given to the patient
  • whether the patient is made aware of the tinnitus support services available
  • whether the person receives appropriate counseling

Dealing With Anxiety Disorders and Depression 

People with depression and anxiety disorders usually suffer from their mental disorder prior to the onset of tinnitus, and not the other way around. However, whether depression existed prior to the onset of the tinnitus, or a person has become anxious and depressed because of their tinnitus, it is important to seek help.

Talking to your G.P. and spending time with an experienced tinnitus counsellor would be a good start.It is important to note that you can't always identify the cause of depression nor change troubling circumstances.

The most important thing is to recognise the depression and to seek help.

Remember, the sooner you get treatment, the greater the chance of a fast recovery.

 

Anxiety Disorders

We all feel anxious from time to time, however, for some people, these anxious feelings are overwhelming and cannot be brought under control easily.

An anxiety disorder is more than just feeling stressed – it's a serious condition which makes it hard for the person to cope from day to day.

Anxiety disorders are very common. One in four people will experience an anxiety disorder at some stage in their lives.

Anxiety is common, especially for some in the early stages of their tinnitus. The sooner you get help, the sooner you will learn to control the condition.

 

What Causes Depression?

Most people assume that depression is caused simply by recent personal difficulties or a chemical imbalance in the brain. Depression however, is often caused by the mix of recent events and other longer-term or personal risk factors. Research indicates that ongoing difficulties, such as long-term unemployment or living in an abusive or uncaring relationship, are more likely to cause depression than recent life stressors.

Depression can also run in families and some people will be at increased genetic risk. However, this doesn't mean that you will automatically become depressed if a parent or close relative has had the illness. Life circumstances are still likely to have an important influence on your chances of becoming ill. It's also common for people to experience depression and anxiety at the same time.

 

Seeking Help

For more information about anxiety disorders and depression, symptom checklists, effective treatments and where to get help, visit www.beyondblue.org.au or www.youthbeyondblue.com or call the beyondblue info line on 1300 22 4636.

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Causes

There are many possible triggers of tinnitus. Among the most common are:

  • exposure to excessively loud noise
  • extreme stress or trauma
  • age related hearing loss
  • some prescription and non-prescription drugs

It is important to consult your doctor and an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist to establish whether there is any underlying treatable medical reason for your tinnitus.

Mechanisms of Tinnitus

When the brain first hears tinnitus it attempts to classify the sound from its stored data of sounds with which it is familiar. When no 'match' can be made from previous experience, the brain focuses on the sound to such an extent that the sound is effectively magnified and the brain gives it a level of importance it does not deserve.

This happens in the same way as when you are alone in your house at night and you hear the sound of a blind knocking against a window sill, or the floor boards expanding or contracting. Your senses go into a state of high alert, and the sounds are given unnecessary significance. This is because the limbic system within the brain is interpreting the sounds as signals of possible danger.

In the same way, whenever you are aware of your tinnitus, your brain automatically interprets the sounds as a sign that something is terribly wrong, or as a danger signal. If this continues, your mind becomes obsessed with the sound, continually focusing on it and thus maintaining your body and mind in a state of high alert.

If this fearful pattern of thought is left unchecked, the negative response to the sound is reinforced. This 'programming' of the brain must be corrected so that you learn to manage your tinnitus rather than letting it manage you.

How Common is Tinnitus ? 

Tinnitus is a symptom of a malfunction of the auditory system where by the sufferer hears sounds in the ears and head which are not associated with any external source.

Approximately 17-20% of the population suffer from tinnitus to varying degrees.

The Tinnitus Association of Victoria is a non-profit volunteer organisation providing a support network for tinnitus sufferers and their families. Tinnitus can be extremely debilitating, affecting peoples' abilities to work or cope with normal life activities.

Many people are told that 'there is nothing that can be done' or 'you will have to learn to live with it'. This is totally wrong. Although there is no cure, people with tinnitus can learn techniques to successfully manage their tinnitus to the point where the tinnitus is no longer a problem for them, and they can continue to lead full and productive lives.