More than 50 million people experience tinnitus. Tinnitus is the experience of hearing a specific noise in one or both ears when no external sound is actually present. This phantom like noise is most often described as a ringing, buzzing, or clicking like noise. Tinnitus can range from mild to severe and be experienced intermittently or constantly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 20 million people have chronic tinnitus.
Tinnitus can take a toll on everyday life in significant ways. It can contribute to challenges with hearing, concentration, capacity to complete tasks etc. Tinnitus can also make it difficult to initiate and/or maintain quality sleep which produces various symptoms including fatigue and grogginess. Additionally, tinnitus can strain communication as well as relationships. Fortunately, there are effective ways tinnitus can be managed. Practicing different strategies can provide relief and minimize the impact tinnitus can have on everyday life.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not a condition itself but is a symptom of an underlying condition. So best treatment options can depend on the underlying condition producing tinnitus. According to the American Tinnitus Association, there are nearly 200 medical conditions that can cause tinnitus. A few of the most common underlying causes include the following:
- Hearing loss. Nearly 1 in 8 people have some degree of hearing loss which impacts over 48 million people. Hearing loss is the most common cause of tinnitus, accounting for 9 out of 10 cases of tinnitus people experience today. Hearing loss can be caused by exposure to loud noise, aging, and medical conditions like cardiovascular disease. It occurs when sensory cells in the inner ear which convert incoming sound waves into electrical signals are damaged. This produces a range of symposiums including tinnitus.
- Medications: there are numerous medications known as ototoxic which have a harmful impact on the ears and auditory system. This includes specific types of antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, and antidepressants. These medications can contribute to hearing loss as well as tinnitus.
- Ear obstructions. People can experience physical blockages which prevent soundwaves from being fully absorbed and reaching the inner ear. This includes accumulated earwax, ear infections, and bone growths which can lead to conductive hearing loss as well as tinnitus.
There are several ways that tinnitus can be treated. This usually involves starting with trying to identify the underlying issue causing the tinnitus.
Tips to Manage Tinnitus
Though there are no cures for tinnitus itself, there are several ways tinnitus is managed and alleviated. A few of the most common strategies include:
- Treat hearing loss. Because hearing loss is the most common cause of tinnitus, you will likely have your hearing tested which involves a painless process. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids which are electronic devices signed to absorb, amplify, and process speech as well as sound. Hearing aids provide the ears and brain with ample support, increasing hearing capacity and alleviating symptoms like tinnitus.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy. A type of sound therapy, TRT uses a technique known as habituation to minimize tinnitus. This involves training the brain to interpret tinnitus as mundane background noise the same way we process the sounds of a fan or a/c unit.
- Ambient Noise. Creating white noise is another useful strategy. Low levels of white noise distracts the brain from focusing on tinnitus which can effectively mask it. You can do this by using a white noise machine, apps that play ambient noise, playing music in the background etc.
- Meditation. Stress can trigger tinnitus so finding ways to effectively move through stress is helpful. Meditation is a great strategy that contributes to relaxation and de-stressing.
- Enhance sleep. Tinnitus can create an unpleasant sleep cycle. Lack of quality sleep can worsen tinnitus which then takes a toll on sleep. You can disrupt this by creating the best possible conditions for sleep: comfortable bedding, adjusting lighting, using sleep aids like earplugs and eye masks etc.
Tinnitus can be an overwhelming experience that impacts your daily life. It is important to know that there are effective strategies that you can practice to alleviate tinnitus. Contact us to learn more about the resources, technologies, and services available to help manage your tinnitus.