Tinnitus is basically a perception when one hears sounds or sensations of sounds while there is no sound in reality. The types of sounds may include humming, hissing, roaring, clicking, buzzing, ringing, etc. Tinnitus commonly hits about 15 to 20 percent of people. Often mistaken otherwise, it is not a condition but a symptom of an underlying problem. Underlying issues are usually noted to be mild and nothing too severe. A few examples are age-related hearing loss, ear injury, a circulatory system disorder, etc.
Though the symptom is not too dangerous, it could worsen with age. However, the good news is that Tinnitus can definitely improve with treatment. Understanding the underlying treatment often helps to a great extent. If not this, reducing/masking the noise brings the sounds under control. Many fear that the symptoms may cause deafness, but this is barely true.
A Little More About Tinnitus
The intensity of the sound(s) may vary from patient to patient. Some people may hear just a mild ringing tone whereas others may hear really loud sounds that might interfere with their ability to concentrate or even refrain them from hearing sounds in reality. They may arise in either of the ears or in both. Also, it could be present in the person all the time or could just come and go for brief moments.
Types of Tinnitus
a. Subjective Tinnitus: the one that only the patient can hear; the most common type; caused by ear problems in the outer, middle, or inner ear; or issues with the auditory nerves; or with the part of the brain that interprets the nerve signals as sound.
b. Objective Tinnitus: the one where doctors can also hear during the examination; the rare type; caused by problems in blood vessels, middle ear bone, or muscle contractions.
1. Loud Noises: prolonged subjection to noisy sounds is the most common cause. According to WebMD, a whopping 90% of the victims are associated with loud noise hearing loss.
2. Ear Blockage: wax, ear infection, benign tumor (rare) of the auditory nerve, etc.
3. Drugs: there are about 200 prescription and non-prescription drugs that are noted to cause Tinnitus as their side effects. Most notable is aspirin among others are: several types of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, sedatives, anti-depressants, quinine medications, cancer medications, etc.
4. Aging: natural aging may deteriorate the cochlea or other parts of the ear.
5. Diseases and Medical Conditions: Otosclerosis, Meniere’s, temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ), high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, circulatory problems, anemia, allergies, underactive thyroid gland, head injuries, neck injuries, autoimmune disease, and diabetes.
6. Alcohol, cigarettes, caffeinated beverages, or even certain types of foods, stress, lack of sleep, and fatigue are among other causes that tend to worsen Tinnitus.
Tinnitus does not have a treatment yet. However, depending on each individual case, there are ways to curb the symptoms and help patients manage & cope with their condition in a better way. Some of the most common ways are:
These are helpful for people with both hearing loss as well as Tinnitus. With hearing aids, one can hear better; the better one can hear, the lower will they hear the Tinnitus sounds.
Quality counseling sessions, support groups, education, and awareness can greatly help victims to learn how to live with the symptoms better.
Wearable Sound Generators
Small devices fit in the ears to mask unpleasant sounds with more soothing sounds. Depending on individual preferences, the masking sound can either be
ssshhh, random tunes, soft music, etc.
Tabletop Sound Generators
Unlike wearable sound generators, tabletop sound generators are not placed inside the ear but instead placed near the bed while sleeping. These can be programmed to generate pleasant sounds like a waterfall, waves, rains, etc. These help to overcome the internal sounds thus increasing the chances of one sleeping.
Acoustic Neural Stimulation
It is a relatively new technique for people whose tinnitus is very loud or won’t go away. It uses a palm-sized device and headphones to deliver a broadband acoustic signal embedded in music. The treatment helps stimulate change in the neural circuits in the brain, which eventually desensitizes you to tinnitus. The device reduces or eliminates tinnitus in a significant number of study volunteers.
Sometimes used in people who have tinnitus along with severe hearing loss. A cochlear implant bypasses the damaged portion of the inner ear and sends electrical signals that directly stimulate the auditory nerve. The device brings in outside sounds that help mask tinnitus and stimulate change in the neural circuits.
Anti-depressants and Anti-anxiety Drugs
Your doctor may suggest certain medicines to help you sleep and rest better.
Note: Do not consume any medicines without the suggestion of a medical practitioner.
With many underlying causes of Tinnitus, not every type can be prevented. however, some of the causes can be prevented by taking certain precautions such as:
1. Hearing protection: exposure to loud sounds over long periods of time can cause damage to the ear nerves which may either cause Tinnitus or even hearing loss. This applies as a mandatory factor, especially to those who use chain saws, are musicians, work in industries that use loud machinery/firearms, etc.
2. Keep your volume game, low: regular exposure to loud music without ear protection (through both wireless or earphones) increases the risk of Tinnitus in the long run.
3. Maintain good cardiovascular health: committed exercise, eating right, and getting enough sleep and rest are prime factors that help you maintain good cardiovascular health -which in turn helps you stay away from blood vessel disorders.