Tinnitus affects at least 45 million people in the United States of America, according to the Centers for Disease Control (otherwise known as the CDC). Tinnitus is a condition that is related to hearing loss, especially in older adults, and it can be caused by exposure to loud sounds and by injury, such as a head-on collision during an athletic event. People with tinnitus perceive a persistent ringing in their ears that only they can hear. There are in fact other sounds that are linked to tinnitus. They include sounds such as buzzing, clicking, hissing, and whistling. These sounds, sometimes called “phantom sounds,” can have a range of pitches (from low to high) and can occur in one or both ears.
Some people find that their symptoms get worse in the evenings and at night, often right before they go to sleep when there are fewer other sounds that might mask the ringing. It can be unpredictable, coming and going without warning. Nearly one-third of those forty-five million Americans find their tinnitus so debilitating that they seek medical attention in the hopes of soothing their symptoms and finding relief.
Tinnitus can make it very difficult to concentrate at work and at school. It can lead to insomnia and it is associated with anxiety, depression, and irritability. While there is no cure, there are some things you can do to alleviate the condition.
CAUSES OF TINNITUS
There are several causes of tinnitus. People older than the age of 60 are at greater risk for hearing loss and hearing sensitivity. Often, their gradual hearing loss is accompanied by tinnitus. The condition is also caused by exposure to loud noise, such as might occur on a job site that uses heavy machinery or explosive devices. Smaller-scale devices such as in-ear headphones can also be the culprit. It also seems that some habits such as drinking alcohol and smoking can contribute to tinnitus.
It is important to remember that tinnitus is merely a sign of another, underlying condition. Identifying this condition with the help of a health professional is key to treatment. Tinnitus can result from a blocked inner, middle, or outer ear. The cause of this blockage can be as simple as blocked ear wax, which can be treated by flushing the ear with warm water. It may be that the ear has become infected, and a health professional can determine the best treatment for you, which may include flushing the ear as well as a course of antibiotics.
There are other treatments that can be done at home or with a medical professional. One of the most common is sound therapy, where external noise is used to mask the perception of tinnitus. This external noise can be background music or something like a white noise machine. Whatever the case, the sound that is used in sound therapy should pleasing and pleasant to the person experiencing tinnitus. This sound therapy will only provide temporary relief, however. When the external noise is removed, the person experiencing tinnitus will again sense a ringing or another persistent and distracting sound. Hearing aids, however, can provide more long-lasting relief from tinnitus. This is because hearing aids amplify all manner of external sounds. The environmental sounds that a hearing aid can pick up can thereby redirect attention of the person experiencing tinnitus away from the ringing and toward other sounds.
Another therapy used to treat tinnitus is called tinnitus retraining therapy. Here, the auditory system is retrained to understand the sounds of tinnitus (ringing, etc.) as natural sounds. This therapy is conducted by a trained hearing health professional who wears a device that gives off a low-level white noise. Over time, tinnitus retraining therapy sessions can help people dealing with these distracting symptoms. As with most health treatments, tinnitus retraining therapy works in direct proportion to the severity of the condition.
Contact Us at Southeast Medical Hearing
Treating tinnitus is an important part of long-lasting hearing health. There are links between hearing issues such as hearing loss and feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety, and more. The more aware you are about the causes of hearing loss and related issues such as tinnitus, the more prepared you will be to address them. If you are ready to seek treatment, contact us at Southeast Medical Hearing.