Nedlands: Patients with hearing problems offered hope at Pam Gabriels Audiology and Tinnitus Management

Audiologist Pam Gabriels with a client.
Audiologist Pam Gabriels with a client.

PEOPLE who suffer from the detrimental effects of tinnitus and sensitivity to sound may yet have hope of leading a normal life, according to the latest research and clinical practice.

Research presented at the first World Tinnitus Conference this year found having tinnitus (ringing in the ears or head noises) had an effect on the cognitive load of the brain.

Patients with exactly the same degree of hearing loss were compared on tasks that involved hearing speech in noise.

Those with tinnitus performed significantly poorer than those without tinnitus.

Tinnitus is just one of a range of hearing conditions that can be treated successfully.

Misophonia (dislike of sound) and hyperacusis (sensitivity to sound) can be managed using the latest science and technology, according to audiologist Pam Gabriels.

Ms Gabriels said misophonia started when the limbic system (the brain’s control centre for emotions) and the autonomic nervous system (the brain’s control centre for fight or flight) became active at the same time when a certain sound was heard.

When the sound is heard again, the ‘gatekeepers’ in the acumbens nucleus part of the brain invoke the fight or flight reaction again rather than filtering it out.

“Eating sounds, breathing sounds, whispering, pens clicking, sneezing, pets licking water or even walking towards their drinking bowls can all evoke a negative response quite out of character for the individual,” she said.

“The condition has become more of an issue with open plan offices for some individuals who cannot escape annoying sounds from co-workers – including sounds such as typing on keyboards, eating sounds and pens clicking.

“Many resort to wearing headphones but the best treatment is desensitisation, which can be achieved once the condition has been assessed and explained in terms of a conditioned response – and treated by a professional trained in this area.”

Ms Gabriels said the condition began when most people were teenagers, but it was not uncommon for children to experience it as well.

“For adults, the consequences on their life can be detrimental,” she said.

“In some cases they cannot eat at the same table as family members, cannot travel in the same car and can shun loved ones as they cannot cope.

“The most common triggers are eating and breathing sounds.”

Ms Gabriels said tinnitus had a very similar conditioned loop pattern in the brain and could also be treated successfully.

Click here for information on getting treatment for hearing conditions at Pam Gabriels Audiology and Tinnitus Management.