Tinnitus & Decreased Sound Tolerance


Tinnitus is most commonly the term used to describe ringing in the ears, but it can also be applied to describe any perceived sounds which are not present externally including buzzing, clicking or a combination of a number of different sounds.

Tinnitus Habituation

Most individuals, even those with normal hearing, have some degree of tinnitus, however, in most cases habituation occurs and the brain does not pay attention to the tinnitus and it is not perceived as an important sound. However, if enough negative attention is drawn to it; tinnitus can become intrusive, irritating or distressing and in some cases can become disturbing and interfere with day to day life.

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Tinnitus and Hearing Loss:

People with a hearing loss often blame their tinnitus for their hearing problems, particularly when communicating in groups and in background noise. The tinnitus is a symptom of the hearing loss, not the cause.

The presence of a hearing loss and the resultant communication difficulties can lead to frustration, fatigue and stress which can be aggravating factors in tinnitus awareness and annoyance. If you have a hearing loss, then hearing aids will be effective in both the management of your hearing loss and your tinnitus. Hearing aids, by amplifying external sounds around you, will result in your internal noise, or tinnitus, becoming less noticeable. Programs producing a range of different noises or sounds are now available in a number of contemporary hearing aids.

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Tinnitus Management:

At Cairns Audiology Group your Audiologist can customise a tinnitus assessment and management program for you which may contain;

  • A thorough case history regarding your tinnitus and associated issues,
  • an evaluation of the tinnitus and its impact on you individually,
  • a detailed diagnostic hearing assessment,
  • education on the mechanisms of tinnitus generation and discussion of how this relies to your individual case.
  • a tailored management program to help with tinnitus habituation.

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Decreased Sound Tolerance:

Hyperacusis, Misophonia and Phonophabia

Decreased sound tolerance is most commonly known as Hyperacusis although the term may also be applied to misophonia (strong dislike of sound) and phonophobia (and irrational fear or a specific sound).

A history of disturbing tinnitus and high levels of anxiety are the main factors that lead to the development of decreased sound tolerance. However, hyperacusis can develop in conjunction with a number of disturbances to the auditory system including Meniere’s disease; otosclerosis and noise induced hearing loss.

When hyperacusis develops, normal everyday sounds appear unnaturally prominent and increasingly louder. Exposure to these sounds may result in a temporary increase or change in tinnitus, as well as sensations such as ear pain, aural fullness or transient dizziness. As a result of this, hyperacusis sufferers may believe that their ears are no longer able to physically tolerate these everyday sounds and that these sounds are causing damage to their ears. This leads to an increase in anxiety and stress and causes suffers to withdraw and begin to avoid situations where exposure may occur.


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