Have you noticed a subtle ringing noise in your ears since having a tooth drilled or listening to loud music? Do you hear a buzzing or clicking sound or sense wind whistling through your ears? It’s not your imagination. These are the symptoms of tinnitus, which is a common problem affecting up to 32 percent of the U.S. population, according to National Center for Health Statistics studies. The prevalence of tinnitus increases to 70-85 percent in the hearing-impaired population. Tinnitus isn’t an illness, but a symptom of a condition such as hearing loss, ear injury, or disease. It’s important to visit your audiologist to determine the root of tinnitus. The good news is, there are ways to reduce that pesky sound, and we are here to help.
What is Tinnitus?
There are two main types of tinnitus, the most common of which is called subjective tinnitus. By subjective, it means you hear noises that aren’t audible to anyone else. But make no mistake, the perception of sound is very real. It often coincides with hearing loss, vertigo, or a feeling of pressure in the ear. For some people, subjective tinnitus is a constant problem, but for others, it comes and goes for brief periods of time. The second type, objective tinnitus, actually makes sounds in your ear that are audible to your doctor via microphone. It’s typically caused by blood vessel issues, middle ear problems, or muscle contractions, and is a little harder to treat. Fortunately, objective tinnitus is quite rare.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Most commonly, tinnitus occurs after exposure to loud noises like movies, music, dental drills, power tools, or lawnmowers. But tinnitus also develops as a result of disease, stress, compacted ear wax, head trauma, and even some stimulants and medications. For many people, the symptoms relent or reduce over time. But for others, tinnitus is a chronic hindrance to their life. It can be difficult to do simple tasks like watch TV or make phone calls. Some even suffer from insomnia since the ringing is more obvious in quiet environments. Luckily, there are steps you can take to treat tinnitus, although there is no formal cure.
How Do I Deal With Tinnitus?
While tinnitus isn’t dangerous and won’t cause hearing loss or disease, it can hamper your quality of life. The first step is to visit your audiologist to see what is causing the problem. Subjective and objective tinnitus require different treatment, and the cause determines the best protocol. For chronic sufferers, try these tips to seek relief.
- Distract Yourself- Like anything, if we focus on it, it becomes more apparent. Mask the sound with white noise machines or quiet music.
- Seek Relaxation– Stress is known to cause and aggravate tinnitus, so find ways to relax, including therapies like counseling and biofeedback.
- Eliminate Stimulants– Caffeine and cigarettes worsen symptoms, as do loud environments that aggravate the problem, so try to cut back.
- Consider Medicine– Medicines like antidepressants can reduce symptoms, but they come with symptoms of their own, so ask your doctor.
- Try Hearing Aids– Tinnitus can go hand-in-hand with hearing loss since they share common causes. Hearing aids help tinnitus by addressing both problems and masking the ringing sound. There are masking devices that can be worn in conjunction with hearing aids to correct the most stubborn symptoms.
If you’re dealing with tinnitus, take heart, you aren’t alone. There are simple, non-invasive ways to restore tranquil sound, and we want to help you get there. We are one of the oldest and largest private audiology practices in Maryland and our experience makes all the difference. We use the most advanced technology and offer a two-month adjustment period if you need hearing aids for tinnitus. Contact us today to put that ringing noise to rest.