Technically speaking, Tinnitus isn’t a condition in and of itself - it’s really a symptom of some other condition, like age-related hearing loss, an injury to the ear or a circulatory system disorder.
So, what IS Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the perception of sound, such as ringing in the ears, without actual external noise causing it. Sometimes it comes and goes. Some individuals describe it as a high pitched tone, buzzing, static, roaring, hissing, swooshing, or chirping. It may be perceived in one or both ears. Depending on the case, it may be distractingly loud, or it might be barely noticeable. The characteristics of tinnitus can vary widely among those who perceive it.
Is Tinnitus treatable?
The best way to treat Tinnitus is to determine what is causing it, and treat that condition. However, if the tinnitus cannot be eliminated by treating the underlying source, there are several management strategies to increase patient comfort in its presence.
“Audiologists and otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat doctors, or ENTs) routinely collaborate in identifying the cause of tinnitus and providing treatment and management. A treatment that is useful and successful for one person may not be appropriate for another.”
Your hearing care professional can work with you to decide what options are best for you.
Is it possible I did something that is causing my Tinnitus?
There are many things that can cause Tinnitus. Some are health related, some are some behaviors that could be the cause too. In many cases, a combination of factors can contribute to the perception of tinnitus. There may also be exacerbating conditions, such as stress, nutritional changes, and fatigue.
Conditions that might cause tinnitus include:
- Hearing loss
- Ménière's disease
- Loud noise exposure
- Migraine headaches
- Head injury
- Drugs or medicines that are toxic to hearing
- Too much wax in the ear
- Certain types of tumors
- Caffeine (coffee)
- Smoking (cigarettes)
Can a hearing aid help with my Tinnitus?
Possibly. If the Tinnitus you are experiencing is a result of hearing loss, then a hearing aid can alleviate both your diminished hearing AND decrease your perception of tinnitus when in use. Some hearing aids are designed with special features to mask the tinnitus, such as with white noise or nature sounds that the wearer can control, sometimes even through a smartphone app.
Is there any way to prevent Tinnitus?
Because it’s often due to circumstances that can’t be controlled, we can’t say yes on this one. But these three things might help stave it off:
- Use hearing protection. Over time, exposure to loud noise can damage the nerves in the ears, causing hearing loss and tinnitus. If you use chainsaws, are a musician, work in an industry that uses loud machinery or use firearms (especially pistols or shotguns), always wear over-the-ear hearing protection.
- Turn down the volume. Long-term exposure to amplified music with no ear protection or listening to music at very high volume through headphones can cause hearing loss and tinnitus.
- Take care of your cardiovascular health. Regular exercise, eating right and taking other steps to keep your blood vessels healthy can help prevent tinnitus linked to blood vessel disorders.
Should I see a hearing care professional if I have Tinnitus?
This is a resounding YES.
Your hearing care professional will work with you to determine what may be causing your Tinnitus, and give you strategies to help deal with it. Tinnitus is often most bothersome to people when it seems to be creating a ‘wall’ of sound between themselves and their environment. So, the main goal of tinnitus management is to ‘move’ the perception of it into their background. Many strategies exist that people may be unaware of until they speak with the right professional.
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Not hearing as well as you used to?
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