Over 45 million Americans struggle with the whistling, ringing, or buzzing sound known as Tinnitus. The condition, which seems to come out of nowhere, impacts one in two people at some point in their lives, making it one of the most widespread health conditions in the United States.
What is tinnitus and how is it identified?
Tinnitus is a background noise with no external source of sound. The origin of the condition remains a mystery for the scientific community. The only thing we can say is that it's not a disease, it's a symptom.
The sounds in the ear vary from person to person in terms of tone, frequency, volume and how much it is perceived. It is sometimes noticed in one ear, and sometimes in the very middle of the head.
It could appear in wave-like periods, or it may be uninterrupted–and you can never forget that it is there. Those with hearing loss sometimes suffer tinnitus, but people with good hearing have experienced it as well.
How tinnitus affects people
Almost 20 million people deal with intrusive tinnitus on a regular basis. Roughly 2 million (or 10%) of those have severe tinnitus. We can distinguish between mild tinnitus and severe tinnitus. Not all those impacted by tinnitus feel adversely affected by the noise in their ears.
Tinnitus is never-ending for those who suffer from it severely. it upsets their mental focus during the day and creates trouble sleeping at night.
Does tinnitus cause hearing loss?
There is a common belief that tinnitus causes loss of hearing. In fact, tinnitus is similar to hearing loss, but it does not cause hearing loss. Tinnitus is actually just a sign of another condition, and the best approach to the treatment of tinnitus is to pinpoint this condition. To this end, there are several causes of tinnitus.
It is still not entirely clear where the noise comes from. But hearing loss may be the most common cause. In fact, 80% of tinnitus cases are accompanied by hearing loss. How does this occur?
Scientists believe that certain sounds are communicated to the brain inadequately, or not at all, following damage to the sensory cells in the cochlea. The auditory response region in the brain then tries to make up for the missed frequencies by "turning the volume up"–even if the person doesn't hear the noise at all. Thus, it has been determined that the tinnitus sound often also correlates to those frequencies that the affected person has trouble hearing or can't hear anymore.
What triggers tinnitus?
There are various factors which make tinnitus more likely to surface:
- Stress: Tinnitus is often associated with persistent, constant stress due to family and work-related problems – or due to traumatic events in life, such as a family death.
- Medication: Certain medications for pain and rheumatism, malaria treatments, and certain antidepressants can cause tinnitus symptoms.
- Noise: The most common tinnitus cause being exposed to loud noises.
- Stimulants: Some researchers believe that alcohol and nicotine may make tinnitus more pronounced.
Treatments for tinnitus
There are various treatments for tinnitus to consider.
Sound Therapies: Tinnitus is an internal disturbance that is not audible. Nevertheless, patients can use actual external noise to overcome their sensitivity and reactions to tinnitus. Sound masking can cover tinnitus sound, while more advanced therapies can provide more comprehensive relief.
Hearing Aids: Tinnitus is largely associated with some degree of hearing loss. Increasing ambient noise can often provide relief from the tinnitus symptoms.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy: This is a mixture of sound therapy and counseling that alters the neural signals of the brain and diminishes the perception of tinnitus, helping you to live your daily life much more comfortably.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A form of therapy that helps to improve the emotional response of the body to tinnitus by changing habits of negative thoughts and helping to reduce stress.
Are you looking for help with your tinnitus symptoms? We can help! Contact us today for to discuss our range of treatment options.