The ear is made up of the inner ear, the middle ear, and the outer ear. When sound enters the ear and passes through the tympanic membrane (eardrum) it is sent along to the cochlea – a snail-shaped structure in the inner ear. The cochlea contains fluid with small hair cells that send signals onto the brain. 

Normally the sound frequencies are transformed into electrical signals for the brain to interpret but when the hair cells die or become damaged due to loud noises the brain still interprets the audio channel and creates noise instead – this noise is called tinnitus. 

How does it affect people?

Tinnitus ranges in severity. Some forms of tinnitus are very mild, you would hardly know you had the condition and it probably doesn't affect your daily life, on the other hand, it might be very extreme. You might have a high-frequency buzzing or ringing that is very uncomfortable. 

If you have mild to severe tinnitus it can seriously affect your life and your concentration. Lots of tinnitus in the background can distract your thoughts and make it hard to engage with everyday activities.  This can be a frustrating condition especially since there isn't an easy cure. 

When to visit an audiologist 

If your tinnitus comes on suddenly but you are able to trace it back to a cause such as loud concerts or long-haul flights, there is probably no need to visit your audiologist. You will have a short-term version of the condition that should resolve in days or weeks at the most. 

It's more troubling, however, when you experience the onset of tinnitus gradually this means that it's probably the result of past causes or age-related. It is not as easy to pin down the cause of this type or to cure it so it's recommended that you visit your audiologist for a test and some advice. 

What Treatments are available?

There is no cure for tinnitus because the tiny hair cells in the cochlea cannot be replaced, but tinnitus can be treated in various ways. That said, there are some signs that medical science might one day produce a device that can dissolve the effects of tinnitus in the brain – until then there are some other viable options. 

If you have mild tinnitus and you don't think you need a hearing device you might want to try mindfulness training. Mindfulness helps to take your attention away from the disturbing ringing sounds and reduce the background noise with your attention. Another popular option is to use acupuncture. 

Types of hearing device 

If your tinnitus is quite bad then you might want to consider a hearing aid device that you can obtain by talking to your audiologist. Today hearing aids can be small and discrete, they also come with a wide variety of functions that can improve your hearing capacity and eliminate the annoying ringing in the background of your hearing. The first step is to contact your audiologist to book a hearing test.