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Most of us have heard that ringing in our ears at some point in our lives. Whether it’s after a rock concert, a baseball game or a double shift at work, it can come up at any point. Fortunately for most, the ringing subsides after a short while. But what if it sticks around? That’s when you know you have tinnitus. A very common condition, tinnitus affects about 10% of Americans on a regular basis, according to the Hearing Health Foundation.
What is tinnitus?
The mark of tinnitus is the experience of sound without any external cause of the sound. The important thing to remember is that it is a physical sound, not simply ‘noises in the head’ that you are imagining. It’s a symptom and not in itself a disease.
Tinnitus comes in diverse forms. The sound is usually ringing in the ears, but it could also be a whooshing or roaring sound, so it can take the form of any pitch on the spectrum. The sound can be quiet or loud, persistent or intermittent, in one ear or both, and it can sound like it’s in the middle or the top of the head!
Two main types of tinnitus exist:
- Subjective tinnitus: The most common type which only you can hear.
- Objective tinnitus: This can be heard by a doctor when they’re checking your ears. It’s a very rare type of tinnitus.
On rare occasions, individuals will even get a tinnitus sound that beats to the tempo of their heart. We call this pulsatile tinnitus.
Common causes of tinnitus
The most common causes of tinnitus are below:
- Hearing loss from aging. The most common an individual to report tinnitus is between the ages of 60-69, according to the American Tinnitus Association. This is because hearing gets worse over time, and hearing loss has a strong link with tinnitus, with roughly 90% of all cases of tinnitus appearing alongside a hearing loss.
- Loud noise. Those who are regularly subjected to loud noises are as severe risk of tinnitus. There are occupational hazards for those who work in high-risk industries like farming, construction and the military. There are also risks for certain leisure pursuits. Those who practice unsafe earphone usage and go to loud concerts and sports games are at risk. This tinnitus from one-time loud events usually goes away. But if continually exposed to these sounds, it can cause permanent damage.
- Impacted earwax. Earwax is an important substance for your inner ear. It helps to prevent dirt from entering your ear canal, and slows the development of bacteria. But when there is too much of it, it could be difficult to remove by natural means. This could irritate the eardrum, which causes tinnitus.
Other causes of tinnitus aren’t as prevalent, such as:
- Ear bone changes
- Meniere’s disease.
- TMJ disorders.
- Head injuries or neck injuries.
- Acoustic neuroma.
- Eustachian tube dysfunction.
- Inner ear muscle spasms.
There are also some medications which either cause or exacerbate your tinnitus. The noises usually stop after you stop taking the drugs.
What treatments are available for tinnitus?
Although there is no medical cure for tinnitus, many people have success managing their symptoms with one or more of the below treatments:
A good set of hearing aids which are properly fitted can go a long way towards reducing the symptoms. As they improve the ability to hear, they reduce the ‘signal to noise ratio’ which reduces your perception of the tinnitus.
Therapeutic Noise Generator:
This device looks similar to a hearing aid, but is only recommended for those without hearing loss. Similar to a white noise machine, it generates sounds which stimulate most of the hair cells in the cochlea, reducing the perception of tinnitus sounds.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT):
This is a talking therapy which helps in three ways. It attempts to modify the attitude the individual has about tinnitus, it provides methods to detract attention from the symptoms, and finally, it offers stress-management strategies.
If you think you may have tinnitus, talk to us today at Evergreen Audiology. We have years of experience managing tinnitus of veterans, older adults and other high-risk groups. We provide a number of treatment options to help you forget the tinnitus and continue living your life as normal.