Millions of Americans suffer from tinnitus, making it one of the most common conditions in the United States. Almost everyone experiences short bursts of mild tinnitus, most likely after a noisy concert or other public events.
Still, for many people, this sound can be more than occasionally irritating. The U.S. Disease Control Centers estimates that almost 15% of the general public — over 50 million Americans — live with tinnitus. This includes our veterans — it is one of the most common conditions experienced by our returning servicemen and women.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a sound you hear without a real sound source, often known as phantom noise. The nature of the noise observed differs from person to person, but it was described as the noise caused by crickets or steam escaping from a boiling kettle.
There are two types of tinnitus: subjective and objective. In at least 95% of cases, tinnitus is subjective – only the person who experiences it can hear the sound. Objective tinnitus happens when sound is audible to others.
Causes of Tinnitus
The cause of tinnitus is still not entirely apparent. Yet hearing loss may be the most common cause. Decreased hearing ability is present in 80 percent of tinnitus cases. How are the two linked?
When hearing is decreased, sounds are insufficiently transmitted to the brain. In response, the brain tries to 'increase the volume' to compensate for the missed frequencies. Many people are able to “turn-out” their tinnitus. However others find it very annoying and seek treatment options.
Although certain conditions make tinnitus more likely, it can often be triggered by certain stimuli, such as:
Stress: Stress heightens the likelihood of experiencing tinnitus. Studies have shown that those who live or work under stressful conditions are more likely to experience tinnitus. Tinnitus is also associated with persistent, ongoing family and work-related stresses or stressful incidents such as family tragedies.
Medication: Ringing in the ear can also be an unwanted medication side effect. Some drugs for pain, malaria, and some antidepressants may also cause symptoms of tinnitus. (Please note: always follow your physician’s orders for your medications. If you are concerned about tinnitus and your medication, always consult with your physician.)
Noise: The most prevalent cause of tinnitus is being exposed to too much noise. Exposure time to loud noise is a decisive factor. Those who live or work in a place with high noise levels are more likely than others to experience tinnitus.
Stimulants: Some specialists claim that alcohol and nicotine can contribute to tinnitus development. Caffeine was thought to be another cause as well as sodium and artificial sweeteners.
Effects of Tinnitus
We can differentiate between moderate and extreme tinnitus. Not all tinnitus-impacted people are negatively affected by their ear noise. But for those who are seriously affected, tinnitus can be a daily battle. During the day, it upsets their mental concentration and causes sleeping issues at night.
Sound therapy uses internal noise such as background music or a white noise machine and is one of the most common tinnitus treatments. Sound therapy offers short-term relief. If the external noise is removed, the person with tinnitus may see their tinnitus symptoms coming back again.
On the other hand, hearing aids can offer more significant relief as they amplify all kinds of environmental sounds. By improving your hearing ability, your brain no longer pays attention to your ringing, buzzing or crickets. Hearing aids provide our people with a two-fold benefit; improved hearing ability and reduced annoyance of their tinnitus.
Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) is another therapy used to treat tinnitus. The auditory system is retrained here to perceive the tinnitus sounds in a non-negative way. Think of the way you ignore the air conditioner's sound after a while - TRT aims to produce this reaction to tinnitus.
If you're looking for relief from your tinnitus symptoms, we can help. Contact us today to set up an appointment.