If you are experiencing the constant sound of ringing in your ears, and you know the noise is coming from inside your head rather than outside, you might have tinnitus.
Tinnitus, pronounced tin-ny-tus or tin-ut-us, is not always a ringing noise either. It is very different for each person and has been described as buzzing, clicking, whooshing, crickets, whistling or hissing too.
Tinnitus can either be constant or come and go, and if is it loud and constant, it can affect your work, social life, relationships and time outdoors.
We’ve outlined some of the basic facts about tinnitus below.
How Common Is Tinnitus?
About 10% of US adults have reported experiencing tinnitus in the last year. Aging is a common cause of it, but it can happen at any age.
Tinnitus doesn’t seem to affect most tinnitus sufferers too badly – they say it is annoying but that it has not changed their lifestyle. However, it has drastically changed the lives of 1% to 2% of tinnitus sufferers to the point where they cannot work or sleep well.
For many of the latter, this has led to depression, anxiety and memory problems.
But there is hope! While tinnitus cannot be cured, it can be treated and managed successfully.
We have quite a few treatment options that we can try or suggest to help relieve you of your tinnitus.
The Types Of Tinnitus
Tinnitus can either be subjective or objective. Most people, about 99%, suffer from subjective tinnitus.
Subjective tinnitus is caused by:
- Loud noise exposure – a once-off loud noise, such as a gunshot, or long-term exposure to loud noise – such as working in an industrial setting – can be detrimental to the working of your inner ear.
- Nerve damage
- An obstruction in the ear canal – such as earwax
- Inflammation in the ear canal – often from an ear or sinus infection
Objective tinnitus is caused by:
- Medical conditions – that can damage the auditory system, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, hormonal changes, head trauma, COVID-19 and Ménière’s disease.
- Some medications – that are used to treat conditions such as cancer, heart disease and kidney disease can also damage the auditory system. More than 200 drugs are known to cause tinnitus.
There is a third type of tinnitus that sounds like a whooshing or pulsating sound. This is called pulsatile tinnitus and can signify an irregularity in the flow of blood in the brain and neck. You should see an ENT doctor if this is the case.
Ways To Treat Tinnitus
- Maskers in hearing aids – While there is no cure, hearing aids can have maskers to distract the brain from hearing the tinnitus. These tones are delivered through the hearing aids. Not all hearing aids have this feature though, so be sure to include it in your purchasing checklist, if needed.
- External maskers – can be plugged in in any room.
- Hearing aids – These also address your hearing loss and fill in the missing spots of your hearing with amplification or clarity. Because it is thought that tinnitus is the noise the brain makes when it can’t distinguish sounds, the hearing aids help you distinguish sounds and words again, thereby reducing the brain’s reactions.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy – This trains the brain to think of other things and not concentrate on tinnitus. It has been very successful to date.
- Diet and lifestyle – Coffee and alcohol consumption and smoking can make tinnitus worse.
- Cochlear implants – For people with a severe hearing loss, this type of hearing treatment can reduce and manage tinnitus.
If You Or A Loved One Has Tinnitus
Tinnitus is not an imagined sound, so the more you know about it, the more you can manage your own or support a loved one suffering from it.
A hearing test will let us know your degree of hearing loss, and we can discuss your type of tinnitus and suggest the best hearing solution and tinnitus treatment plan.
Book your hearing assessment with us. We want to help you get to the place where your tinnitus doesn’t bother you anymore, so come see us and we’ll do all we can to manage it well.