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Tinnitus is commonly referred to as ringing in the ears. The sounds differ from person to person and have been described in various ways: a bell, a clanging, an air rush, a scream, a whistle, or even a low rumble.
It’s a distracting disorder that often has no apparent cause. The sounds may be temporary or chronic and may affect one or both ears. Tinnitus can fluctuate over the whole day in volume and frequency.
Tinnitus has been known to cause attention difficulties and is associated with elevated levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. People who suffer from the condition may also suffer from sleep deprivation.
Types of Tinnitus
Tinnitus comes in two types: subjective and objective.
- Subjective Tinnitus is the most common form, accounting for over 99 percent of cases of Tinnitus. With subjective Tinnitus, the noises can only be detected by the individual suffering from the condition. Subjective Tinnitus is also associated with age-related or noise-induced hearing impairment, in which exposure to noisy sounds destroys the inner ear’s hair cells. Researchers have suggested that damage to these cells in the inner ear causes them to send signals to the brain to record sound even when there is no stimulus.
- Objective Tinnitus is highly rare, accounting for less than 1 percent of cases. In these cases, even those close by may be able to hear the sounds.
Causes of Tinnitus
Although we do not know the exact cause of Tinnitus, the most common identifiable causes include:
- Hearing loss
- Loud noises
- Head injuries
- Ototoxic medicines
- Fluctuations in blood pressure
- Wax buildup in the ear
According to the Hearing Health Foundation, approximately 90 percent of tinnitus cases occur with an underlying hearing loss -whether it is ototoxic medication or loud noise exposure or ear canal blockage.
Damage to the inner ear hair cells is a common cause for both hearing loss and Tinnitus.
How common is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus afflicts 25 million people in the US or around 10 percent of the adult population. In a recent study, 60 percent of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan reported tinnitus and hearing loss cases.
Most people have already had brief tinnitus encounters. Approximately 50 million people Americans report having encountered Tinnitus in their lives at least once, whether constant or short-lived. If you’ve ever been too close to a speaker at a concert or listened to music on your headphones at a high volume-and then felt a kind of ringing feeling in your ear afterward, you’ve experienced Tinnitus.
The effects of Tinnitus
Especially in chronic cases, Tinnitus is a frustrating condition that can adversely affect day to day life. It has been associated with sleep loss, memory and attention problems, and elevated levels of anxiety and stress.
Paired with hearing loss, it could negatively affect your physical and emotional health and interpersonal relationships. The search for both tinnitus and hearing loss treatment brings significant benefits to one’s quality of life.
Treatment of Tinnitus
Tinnitus is, more often than not, the symptom of a problem. Searching for and addressing the underlying cause can allay the Tinnitus itself.
In comparison to hearing loss, Tinnitus can not be objectively measured. You may be asked a series of questions during a hearing test to determine the underlying conditions which cause your Tinnitus. Although there is no single cure for Tinnitus, there are available treatment options.
A hearing professional will consider your lifestyle factors and your personal and family medical history when you experience both hearing loss and Tinnitus. Since Tinnitus is a subjective experience, what may work for one person might not work for another. That’s why it is essential to try out several different treatments to see which one is right for you.
For cases where tinnitus and hearing loss are experienced together, many people find hearing aids useful. Such devices improve hearing, reduce background noise, enhance speech recognition, and block the Tinnitus sounds. Because Tinnitus frequently causes hearing loss, tinnitus treatment with a hearing aid that provides sound therapy is often an effective way to treat both issues.
If you’re wondering if you have Tinnitus, come and see us! We can diagnose and treat the condition to help you restore your quality of life.