With Washington full of so many of the peaceful sounds of nature, it can be jarring to have them interrupted by an intermittent or constant ringing in your ears. This noise is known as tinnitus — pronounced as tin-it-us by some and tin-ight-us by others.
According to the American Tinnitus Association, about 50 million Americans experience some type of tinnitus in their lifetime. It is chronic and troublesome to 20 million, and 2 million say their tinnitus is extreme and debilitating.
If you’ve been experiencing some type of noise in your ears, the following information might help you understand it and its possible treatments a bit better and also give you hope.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus isn’t classified as a disorder rather than as a symptom of another physical issue, and it often shows up as the first sign of hearing loss in those over the age of 54.
Tinnitus doesn’t always sound like ringing. It’s also been described as buzzing, humming, whooshing, clicking, whistling, hissing, and pulsating by those who experience it. Hear some of the sounds here.
Researchers say this sound could be made by your brain cells turning up sounds in the auditory part of your brain in an effort to fix hearing loss. This would explain why most people with tinnitus also have some measure of hearing loss.
Tinnitus can cause you to become so bothered by it that it’s hard to do anything else 100%. People with tinnitus have reported insomnia, an inability to focus, memory loss, anxiety, stress, relationship difficulties, and depression.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be subjective or objective.
Subjective tinnitus, experienced by 99% of Americans with tinnitus, is caused by problems in your hearing system.
- As your body gets older, so do the cells in your inner ears.
- Noise-induced nerve damage happens when you’ve been exposed to loud noise over a period of years, such as an industrial work environment, or after one very loud event, such as a bomb blast, while in the military.
- A growth, inflammation, or earwax can block your ear canal so much that your hearing system reacts with tinnitus.
Objective tinnitus, experienced by the remaining 1% of tinnitus sufferers, is caused by medical issues such as cardiovascular disorders, kidney diseases, or head trauma. These noises can sometime be heard by your hearing professional through a stethoscope.
- Ototoxic meds used to treat cancer, heart disease, kidney conditions, and infections can also damage the hearing system. There are currently more than 200 medications that might cause this often-temporary side effect.
Can Tinnitus Be Treated?
Yes! Tinnitus can be treated! While there is no known cure, the burden of tinnitus can be significantly lessened with the right treatment.
- The first step to treatment is a diagnosis, which we can give you straight after a short, non-invasive hearing assessment at an Inland Hearing Aids location near you.
- When we can identify what your hearing system is missing, we can match those gaps to your particular type of tinnitus. During your hearing assessment, we can get quite close to matching the sound you hear, which helps tremendously in choosing the right treatment.
- We can also discover the external sound volume that starts feeling uncomfortable or painful, which also helps us customize your treatment.
- We’ll rule out any underlying medical reasons for your tinnitus. If we think it’s due to a health issue, such as TMJ (temporomandibular joint dysfunction), we’ll refer you to the right specialist to take care of that first.
Nine million Americans are choosing to not get treated for tinnitus because they think it’s untreatable, which is not true! And because they don’t seek treatment, it also means that the likely cause of it — hearing loss — is not treated either.
Your hearing health is so important, and to think that you’re missing out on a rich, independent life
because of this belief breaks our hearts.
What Treatments Are There for Tinnitus?
There are a number of treatment options available for tinnitus that can reduce its effects on your quality of life, which include behavioral and educational treatment programs for tinnitus management such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT), lifestyle changes, and hearing aid or external speaker sound masking or white noise.
Even though there is currently no cure for tinnitus, extensive research is being done to find one, and we’ll update you on anything new we learn.
We look forward to hearing from you.