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Tinnitus is one of the most common symptoms of hearing loss but can also be experienced without hearing loss. It describes hearing a ringing or buzzing like noise in one or both ears that only you can hear. This phantom like noise can be intermittent to constant. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 50 million people experience some degree of tinnitus and that 20 million deal with chronic tinnitus.
Tinnitus can have significant effects on everyday life. It can impact hearing and communication by making it tough to hear what others are saying. In addition to strained communication, it can take a toll on sleep, produce fatigue adn irritability, as well as disrupt work. The Hearing Health Foundation estimates that 16 million people seek medical attention for tinnitus every year. If you experience tinnitus, it is important to know that there are effective ways it can be managed, providing sustainable relief.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not a condition but is actually a symptom of an underlying condition one is experiencing. According to the American Tinnitus Association, nearly 200 health issues can cause tinnitus. Common causes include the following:
- Hearing Loss. The most common cause of tinnitus is hearing loss – a medical condition that reduces a person’s capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound. It is estimated that 90% of cases of tinnitus occur with underlying hearing loss. Hearing loss typically occurs when sensory cells in the inner ear are damaged. This prevents them from processing sound waves effectively which results in the brain receiving less auditory information; causing hearing loss. This produces a range of symptoms including tinnitus.
- Ear obstructions. Another cause of tinnitus is ear obstruction which describe factors that block sound waves from being fully absorbed and processed. Examples of ear obstructions include earwax that has accumulated in the ear canal, bone growths, and a perforated eardrum. This prevents soundwaves from reaching the inner ear, producing hearing challenges and symptoms like tinnitus.
- Meniere’s Disease. Tinnitus can also be caused by inner ear disorders like Meniere’s disease. This condition happens when fluid accumulates in the cochlea. This causes pressure, inflammation, dizziness, and can also cause tinnitus.
Other ways tinnitus can be triggered include: head/neck injuries, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), autoimmune conditions, hyperthyroidism, and specific medications.
How is tinnitus managed?
Tinnitus can be unpleasant to deal with and navigate. Fortunately, there are effective ways it can be alleviated. A few strategies you can practice to effectively manage your tinnitus include the following:
- Get hearing tested. Because hearing loss is a common cause of tinnitus, it is important to have your hearing health evaluated. Conducted by a hearing healthcare specialist, hearing tests involve a painless and noninvasive process that measures hearing capacities in both ears. This identifies any hearing loss and the degree of impairment you could be experiencing. Once your hearing needs are established, your hearing healthcare provider is able to tailor treatment to meet those needs.
- Maximize use of hearing aids. Hearing aids are the most common way hearing loss is treated. These electronic devices are designed to absorb and process speech and sound which provides ample hearing support. This alleviates symptoms like tinnitus, increasing capacity to hear. Today’s hearing aids offer a range of features like tinnitus management which specifically focuses on alleviating tinnitus by emitting low levels of white noise.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy. A type of sound therapy, TRT focuses on training the brain to interpret tinnitus differently. This involves using low levels of white noise and deep breathing exercises while tinnitus is occurring. The brain can relearn to de-emphasize tinnitus and treat it as mundane background noise.
- Use sound machines. Using sound machines or apps that play white noises is a useful way to distract the brain from tinnitus. This type of background noise helps the brain with not paying attention to tinnitus.
- Manage stress effectively. Stress can exacerbate tinnitus so it is important to reduce stress and process it effectively. You can do this by engaging in yoga, therapy, exercise etc.
Practicing these strategies are useful ways to alleviate your tinnitus. Contact us today to learn more about the resources, services, and technolgies that are available to support you and the management of your tinnitus!