Tinnitus: Ringing in the Ears and How to Find Relief
Do you notice a constant ringing sound in your ears? You may be experiencing a real medical condition called tinnitus-- and you're not alone! Tinnitus is a common condition experienced by millions of people. But what exactly is it? And more importantly, can you get rid of it? Read ahead to learn more!
What is tinnitus?
People with tinnitus often describe hearing the following sounds, either quietly or loudly, throughout their daily lives:
The American Tinnitus Association estimates that 50 million people in the country suffer from this problem. Individuals may feel distressed by these sounds that never seem to stop.
What causes tinnitus?
Physicians and audiologists don’t always know the exact cause of tinnitus. Excessive noise exposure is a common cause. Do you work in a noisy environment, such as a factory or construction site? Or perhaps you listen to loud music constantly or use power tools?
Exposure to loud sounds puts your ears at risk by potentially permanently destroying the cells of your inner ear. Whether you’re young or old, it’s a good idea to take steps to protect your ears. To reduce your risk, physically remove yourself from loud sounds, turn down the volume or wear hearing protection.
Tinnitus is also strongly related to:
- A build-up of earwax or earwax impaction
- Diabetes-related sensorineural hearing loss
- Ototoxic (toxic to the ear) medications
- Thyroid conditions, fibromyalgia, or Lyme disease
- Meniere’s disease - a disorder of the inner ear
- Jaw misalignment, head and neck trauma, or strained neck muscles due to arthritis or TMJ
- Acoustic neuroma – a tumor that develops in the vestibular cochlear nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain
- Problems with blood flow in arteries of the head or neck
- Smoking cigarettes
- Cardiovascular diseases
It's worth noting that many people develop tinnitus without identifying an underlying cause. Additionally, consuming certain things such as alcohol, caffeine and medicines containing salicylates such as Ibuprofen and Pepto-Bismal may severely worsen the symptoms of tinnitus in some people.
Should I seek treatment for my tinnitus?
If you believe you are suffering from tinnitus, there are numerous reasons why you may wish to discuss your condition with a hearing care professional sooner rather than later.
- The sooner you have your ears evaluated, the sooner care can begin! Although there is no guaranteed cure for tinnitus, there are many successful treatment options.
- Tinnitus may sometimes point to an underlying health condition that could require medical attention.
- Left unmanaged, tinnitus can create more issues such as sleep disruption, trouble concentrating and even mood changes.
What are the treatment options for tinnitus?
Effective tinnitus treatment of tinnitus is a multi-pronged effort that should address the audiological, emotional, and neurological components of the condition. Here are a few treatment options that may provide relief:
Many tinnitus patients, especially those with hearing loss, experience complete or partial relief from tinnitus by using hearing aids.
For those with age-related hearing loss, tinnitus is often related to the loss of ambient sounds. By restoring those ambient sounds to an individual (if the hearing loss is in the same frequency range as the tinnitus), hearing aids may effectively eliminate the tinnitus.
You're more likely to benefit from wearing hearing aids in both ears than just one. Open-fit hearing aids, which improve hearing without blocking out softer external sounds, have been found to be quite beneficial. There are also combination devices which perform the normal sound-processing functions of hearing aids, while also providing low level external sounds to help relieve tinnitus. Click here to explore Beltone's range of hearing aid styles.
In addition to providing relief in the ways described above, Beltone hearing aids are compatible with the Tinnitus Calmer app. This innovative app can help you manage your tinnitus by distracting your brain with focused sound therapy and interactive experiences. Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Android devices, the app allows you to customize and layer sounds based on your relaxation preferences.
Biofeedback is a relaxation technique that teaches patients how to control autonomic body functions such as temperature, heart rate, and muscle tension. The treatment is based on the presumption that the patient's discomfort is amplified by the stress caused by the tinnitus sounds. Patients learn how to alter the body’s stress response by changing their own thoughts and feelings.
Annual hearing screening
Something as simple as excess ear wax can cause tinnitus, so having a yearly hearing exam can be a quick fix.
Cochlear implants are used for deaf or nearly deaf patients. These devices may help mask tinnitus by the ambient sounds they bring in, or the electrical stimulation that they send through the auditory nerve.
Though many drugs have been researched in an attempt to relieve tinnitus, so far, no drug has been designed specifically to eliminate the disorder, and no existing drugs have been found to cure tinnitus.
If the tinnitus is due to a dysfunctional jaw joint, dental treatment can help relieve it, along with the TMJ pain.
Stay on top of new developments
Joining a tinnitus support group can help you find others who understand what you’re going through. A support group can also help you stay abreast of new treatments and findings. With encouragement from fellow-sufferers, friends, family, along with good hearing care, people with tinnitus usually find that they can cope with the condition.