Au­di­ol­o­gists say help is at hand to man­age tin­ni­tus

Augusta Margaret River Times - - Times News -

Up to 20 per cent of Australians ex­pe­ri­ence tin­ni­tus at some point in their lives, but Duns­bor­ough & Mar­garet River Hear­ing’s spe­cial­ist au­di­ol­o­gists want peo­ple to know they need not put up with it.

Tin­ni­tus refers to any sound or sounds in the ears or head not gen­er­ated by an out­side source and is a sur­pris­ingly com­mon con­di­tion.

Au­di­ol­o­gist Michelle Soares-Men­des said the per­sis­tence of tin­ni­tus could be frus­trat­ing, wor­ry­ing or even dis­tress­ing, and a sur­pris­ing fac­tor for many peo­ple was tin­ni­tus most of­ten re­sulted from a change in hear­ing. “Typ­i­cally it isn’t the cause of any dis­ease in it­self and it doesn’t cause hear­ing loss,” she said.

“It can also be as­so­ci­ated with hav­ing worked in loud noise and less of­ten, head or neck in­juries, stim­u­lants and med­i­ca­tions.”

Mrs Soares-Men­des pointed to stress, anx­i­ety and poor sleep as other fac­tors con­tribut­ing to tin­ni­tus but ex­plained it was eas­ily man­aged with treat­ment.

The ori­gins of mod­ern tin­ni­tus treat­ment come from tin­ni­tus re­train­ing ther­apy de­vel­oped and re­searched by the Pol­ish lead team at Yale Univer­sity by Dr Pawel Jas­tre­boff and later Dr Johnathon Hazell.

The pro­gram recog­nises the cen­tral role of the brain in tin­ni­tus, how the pres­ence of tin­ni­tus is in­ter­preted and how the body re­acts to it.

“Con­sider how we might re­spond if we were alone at night and sud­denly heard some­one break­ing in,” Mrs Soares-Men­des said.

“We might ex­pe­ri­ence fear or anger, our heart rate might in­crease, we might start sweat­ing. These re­sponses can es­ca­late, es­pe­cially if we are lis­ten­ing more acutely than the night be­fore in case of another break in.

“The brain’s sys­tems in­volved in these re­sponses are the au­di­tory cor­tex, the lim­bic sys­tem and the au­to­nomic ner­vous sys­tem.”

Mrs Soares-Men­des said ther­apy was de­signed to en­cour­age peo­ple to “ha­bit­u­ate” or “de­sen­si­tise” to the noise.

“Just like liv­ing on a busy high­way and no longer reg­is­ter­ing the traf­fic noise that might have kept you awake at night,” she said.

Mrs Soares-Men­des has been for­tu­nate enough to have trained un­der Dr Jas­tre­boff in the 1990s and has since de­vel­oped a multi-faceted ap­proach to the man­age­ment and treat­ment of tin­ni­tus.

The first step in Mrs Soares-Men­des’ method is an ap­point­ment at Duns­bor­ough & Mar­garet River Hear­ing, which in­volves an au­di­o­log­i­cal work up to look for pos­si­ble or­ganic causes of ear dam­age or hear­ing loss.

Se­condly, in­for­ma­tion coun­selling can help peo­ple recog­nise and un­der­stand the re­ac­tions to tin­ni­tus, at­ti­tudes, thoughts and feel­ings.

Thirdly, sound ther­apy is used to re­duce the fre­quency or du­ra­tion at which the tin­ni­tus is per­ceived.

Fi­nally, a pro­gram of life­style strate­gies is de­vel­oped to sup­port a more re­laxed phys­i­ol­ogy and make the per­son less ready to act in a “fight or flight” state. Mrs SoaresMen­des said she had been for­tu­nate to have seen great suc­cess in treat­ing tin­ni­tus pa­tients for more than 20 years through­out re­gional WA. “I am es­pe­cially de­lighted to have re­turned to the South West to help those in need in the Duns­bor­ough and Mar­garet River com­mu­ni­ties,” she said.

Duns­bor­ough & Mar­garet River Hear­ing staff.

Michelle Soares-Men­des per­forms an oto­scopic ex­am­i­na­tion on Lor­raine Sk­ender.

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