Do you hear ringing, buzzing or other noises in your ears (or your head)? You may be one of the estimated 10-15% of our population who lives with tinnitus. Over the age of 60, this number goes up to 20%. Most of the time tinnitus is temporary or manageable but it sure can be annoying. What do we know about how it affects memory and concentration?
Anecdotally my clients with tinnitus tell me tinnitus often interferes with understanding speech, attention to tasks, concentration and can increase frustration. Unfortunately, tinnitus commonly interferes with sleep and relaxation, and is increased by stress. Can you see the negative spiral? But take heart –hearing aids, masking noises such as a fan or nature noises, acclimatization therapy and relaxation exercises can help.
There have been a small number of studies investigating a link between tinnitus, memory and attention. These studies show that tinnitus does affect the way people process information, but researchers were unable to rule out contribution from other factors (such as hearing loss, general intelligence and mood).
Tinnitus is common with people who have hearing loss, and incidence of hearing loss increases dramatically as we age. There is strong evidence for a link between hearing loss and memory problems, with emerging research showing hearing aids reverse this negative trend.
Here are my recommendations if you are bothered by tinnitus
- Get a full audiological evaluation (not just a free hearing check/ hearing screening test). This will give you a baseline, check on whether further referral is needed, and give you an understanding if hearing loss could be causing your tinnitus.
- If you have hearing loss – try hearing aids. Quite a lot of people find they help with tinnitus. No guarantees, but I’ve had many people break down in tears telling me how much the hearing aids have helped with their tinnitus.
- Book in for a tinnitus consultation with an Audiologist who specializes in tinnitus. They can explain what we know about tinnitus and discuss strategies to reduce it.
- Try using masking noises like static, rushing water or music to help you get to sleep. We are all better humans with a good night’s sleep.
- Treat yourself to something that is relaxing and healthy- a hot bath, light exercise, massage. Anything that is good for you and relaxing is good for reducing tinnitus.
This article was written by Teresa Burns, Doctor of Audiology and Director of Teresa Burns Hearing Ltd, in Auckland, New Zealand. You can learn more about her at teresaburnshearing.co.nz