Most of us delight in having a little bit of downtime away from the hustle and noise. However, some people are unable to get away from the noise due to a continuous ringing in their ears. The ringing or buzzing these individuals experience is an audiological condition known as tinnitus. I have developed a quick guide to tinnitus to help raise awareness of the condition and the treatment options available with me at Monica Walker.
What Is Tinnitus?
Technically, tinnitus is not a condition in and of itself, but a symptom of some other condition brought on by an injury, age-related hearing loss, or different types of disorders. Those with tinnitus complain of ringing, buzzing, clicking, humming, or even hissing as common sounds they hear.
In reality, the sounds the tinnitus patient hears are not real. The primary theory behind tinnitus is that the brain creates the sounds to compensate for auditory damage or deterioration, leading to the loss of higher frequency sounds. Hearing these phantom sounds often leads to stress and anxiety issues, which tend to make the condition worse, and as the cycle progresses, the intensity of the situation increases.
There are mostly two categories of tinnitus: subjective tinnitus and objective tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus accounts for 95% of tinnitus cases, according to the University of California, San Francisco. Its cause typically relates to some type of outer, middle, or inner ear problem, including auditory nerve damage. No one else can hear subjective tinnitus during an audiology exam.
In contrast to subjective tinnitus, others can hear the ringing or buzzing of objective tinnitus during an exam. The 5% of patients who experience this form of tinnitus have health issues that might include increased blood flow, vibrations in the ear, or the overuse of various muscles in the ear.
The Causes of Tinnitus
There are various causes connected to tinnitus, including:
- Age Deterioration. As we age, nerve fibers in our inner ear begin to deteriorate, which causes hearing loss, often presented as tinnitus.
- Extreme Noise Exposure. A single explosion or prolonged exposure to excessive noise, like loud music, construction site noise, gunshots, and operating heavy machinery, can cause tinnitus.
- Head Trauma. A blow to the head, especially near the ear, can also cause tinnitus.
- Ear Canal Obstructions. Congestion, inflammation, earwax buildup, or growths inside the ear canal are also common causes. This form of tinnitus clears up after removing the obstruction.
- Ototoxic Medications. Various medications can also cause hearing damage. In many cases, discontinuing these medications puts an end to tinnitus symptoms, but in others, the damage is permanent.
Tinnitus Treatment Options
There is a wide range of tinnitus treatments available. Conventional treatments include hearing aids, sound maskers, retraining therapy (typically includes counseling), relaxation therapy, and anxiety medications. Lifestyle changes often relieve or eliminate tinnitus symptoms. Some lifestyle changes might include:
- avoiding loud noise or using ear protection
- better sleeping habits
- reduction of caffeine intake
- eliminating cigarettes and reducing alcohol consumption
- reducing or eliminating stressors
There is no “cure” for tinnitus, but many of these treatment options help reduce its intensity and its effect on your lifestyle.
It’s Time to Get to The Bottom of It
Tinnitus has the potential to reduce your quality of life significantly. If you are experiencing ringing, buzzing, hissing, or humming sounds that won’t go away, it is time for a hearing test.
At my clinic, I will conduct a thorough exam to determine the cause and prescribe a solution customized to fit your specific condition and lifestyle. Contact me for more information about tinnitus or to schedule a hearing test.