Are you hearing sounds that people around you do not seem to notice? Sounds such as ringing, buzzing, roaring or whistling that seem to only be in your head. You are not alone. Nearly 50 million Americans suffer from burdensome tinnitus.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not a disease rather, it is a symptom with no single cause. Experiencing tinnitus is a common indicator of damage to the inner ear or auditory system. It is most often associated with hearing loss. However, tinnitus can also result in a symptom of another underlying health issue.
Tinnitus can be experienced temporarily or long-term. The tone and volume of sounds heard, typically described as ringing or humming in the ears, can vary greatly among people. Some people are hardly bothered by tinnitus. Other people suffer from tremendous disruption of their daily lives.
Types of Tinnitus
Most people have experienced some type of tinnitus during their lifetime. Primary tinnitus is idiopathic in nature whereas secondary tinnitus is associated with an underlying cause.
- Everyone experiences spontaneous tinnitus, a normal phenomenon that lasts for less than one-minute and typically occurs unnoticed.
- Temporary tinnitus is related to a specific event.
- Occasional tinnitus occurs every few weeks over a period of months.
- Intermittent tinnitus occurs every day over a period of weeks.
- Constant tinnitus occurs constantly.
Depending on the severity of tinnitus, the effects can dramatically influence a person’s ability to concentrate. Severe tinnitus can hinder sleep, impede the ability to follow a conversation, and can generate excess stress or anxiety.
Causes of Tinnitus
Tinnitus can be caused by a variety of health issues, most notably hearing loss. If you suspect you are experiencing tinnitus, it is important to consult both your audiologist and your physician for a comprehensive assessment of your symptoms.
Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused at any age by traumatic exposure to loud noises. People who work with machineries, such as at a construction site or industrial setting, are exposed to loud noise on a daily basis. People who enjoy loud leisure events, such as concerts or sporting events, are repeatedly exposed to loud noise.
Age-related hearing loss occurs due to the auditory system deteriorating as people grow older. Tinnitus is prevalent among the senior population. Although more research is necessary to fully understand the relation of tinnitus to age-related hearing loss, it is understood that loss of certain sound frequencies alters how the brain perceives external stimuli. Tinnitus may be an attempt of the brain to fill-in lost sound frequencies.
Ear Obstructions & Pressure Changes
Obstructions within the ear canal can result in tinnitus. Excessive ear wax, a foreign object, dirt, or hair buildup all have the ability to influence hearing and cause permanent damage to the inner ear.
The fluctuation of pressure within the ear canal, caused by an ear obstruction or sinus congestion, can present tinnitus. Ear barotrauma, damage sustained due to an extreme change in the surrounding air or water pressure, can also generate tinnitus.
Traumatic Injury to Head, Neck, or Brain
Significant injury to the head, neck, or brain can severely damage the auditory system. People who experience somatic tinnitus typically report a higher perception of a burden from their symptoms.
Swelling of the mouth and gums, due to the treatment of an oral infection or recovery from oral surgery, can alter the pressure in the ear canal and pose a risk of tinnitus.
Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ) occurs when the temporomandibular joint becomes misaligned resulting from injury, deterioration, or arthritis. Due to the proximity of the temporomandibular joint being adjacent to the auditory system, TMJ can lead to tinnitus.
There are over 200 ototoxic medications available to treat serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s), diuretics, and quinine based drugs are examples of ototoxic medications. Ototoxic medications cause temporary or permanent damage to auditory systems and balance systems, including causing tinnitus.
Tinnitus is not curable however, your audiologist can implement care to minimize your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Take the first step toward treatment and schedule a comprehensive hearing assessment with Acadian Hearing.
Hearing aids can be tuned to enable a person experiencing hearing loss to better hear various sounds, tones, and frequencies. The use of hearing aids alters the brain’s perception of lost capabilities, thus minimizing tinnitus as a secondary solution.
Sound can be used as a management method for tinnitus, to soothe or distract by use of listening to alternative sounds or providing background noise. Hearing aids with a sound option, iPods, TV, or sound machines can be utilized.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is an evidence-based method of treatment that can positively change a person’s perception of tinnitus. A mental health specialist can facilitate CBT and this therapy can be combined with the use of hearing aids and sound therapy as appropriate.
If you think you have tinnitus and are struggling with symptoms, please don’t hesitate to call us. We have a brilliant team of professional audiologists here at Acadian Hearing who will be more than happy to help get to the cause of your tinnitus and help find the best possible treatment for you.
Dr. Heidi J. Sorrells obtained her doctorate degree from Salus University in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Minot State University in Minot, North Dakota. She is a certified Audiologist by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) and she holds a Louisiana and a Texas Audiology License. Dr. Sorrells enjoys all aspects of working in a private practice audiology clinic but especially loves the challenges of vestibular (balance) assessment and rehabilitation.