If you are currently experiencing a high pitched ringing in your ear, you’re not alone. This sound is known as tinnitus, and it is estimated that over 50 million Americans suffer from this condition.
The sudden onset of ringing, buzzing or whooshing in the ears can be quite alarming. But rest assured that most of us will experience some form of tinnitus throughout our lives, whether or not it is accompanied or caused by hearing loss. The good news is that there is a lot of research on what causes tinnitus, and the different treatment options available.
If you are looking for more information about the condition, here’s everything you need to know.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the perception of noise in the ear that is not caused by an outside source. It can be heard as a high pitched ringing, buzzing, humming or whistling sound.
It’s most noticeable when in a quiet room, or at night when other sounds are no longer masking the noise. There are 10 different tones that make up tinnitus, which is usually heard as a high pitched ringing sound in one or both ears.
Tinnitus can range from being a mild inconvenience to severely debilitating. It can also come and go. For some people it can get louder over time, depending on what has caused it.
Unfortunately, most people who suffer from tinnitus will find their symptoms don’t go away. There are however many treatment options available, as well as coping strategies that you can adopt to make living with it much easier.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is often linked with hearing loss, but the two can sometimes be unrelated. There’s a number of reasons why tinnitus may occur, including the following:
Damage to the inner ear can occur due to the aging process or exposure to loud noise. Tinnitus is most associated with hearing loss due to both of these reasons. The official term for hearing loss caused by either is sensorineural hearing loss.
Another cause of tinnitus that results from hearing loss is due to a blockage or ear infection. As soundwaves are unable to pass into the inner ear, this can also create tinnitus symptoms. This type of hearing loss is known as conductive hearing loss.
Otosclerosis is a condition that involves an abnormal bone growth of the tiny bones of the middle ear. This results in the ossicles not being able to pass sound waves as effectively anymore, which could lead to both tinnitus and hearing loss.
Hearing aids can be beneficial for those with otosclerosis, and surgery (called a stapedectomy) has a high success rate.
Ménière’s disease is caused by pressure changes of the fluid in the middle ear. Although it’s a rare condition, it can cause a range of symptoms including tinnitus, vertigo, hyperacusis, loss of balance, hearing loss and a full sensation in the ear.
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. It’s responsible for connecting the bones of the jaw, enabling you to open your mouth, speak and chew. One cause of ringing in the ears stems from damage to this joint.
It’s easy to confuse tinnitus with TMJ as they both have similar symptoms, namely ringing in the ears. However, TMJ is normally accompanied with facial pain or problem with the jaw locking up.
Additional factors that can cause tinnitus include head or neck injuries, neurological disorders, thyroid disorders, certain medications or cardiovascular disorders.
Can tinnitus be cured?
The simple answer is: it depends on what has caused it. For example, if you have an ear blockage and your doctor irrigates your ears to remove wax or debris, this may relieve the symptoms and may restore your hearing.
As tinnitus can be caused by a number of complex reasons, whether or not it can be cured depends on the treatment options available for your specific cause.
If you are experiencing tinnitus, make sure you visit your doctor as further evaluation may be needed and note down any other symptoms in case another condition is present.
Be aware of unfounded ‘cures for tinnitus’ that are on many blogs and video sites. Unfortunately, non-medical approved methods are unlikely to offer any relief. They could leave you out of pocket, or worse still cause further damage to your ears.
How can I manage my tinnitus?
Although it might be alarming to hear noises in your ear, rest assured that tinnitus is very common. That being said, if it gets in the way of you living a normal life, it makes sense to want to solution to stop worrying about it.
Alongside visiting your doctor regularly and reporting your tinnitus symptoms, there are steps you can take to minimize the impact tinnitus is having on your life.
If your tinnitus is caused or accompanied by hearing loss, many hearing devices now have masking features that block frequencies known to cause tinnitus. We recommend checking out HearGift’s V7 ITC model for a digital hearing aid that costs just shy of $350 for a pair.
It’s important not to overly focus on your tinnitus as this can make the noises seem worse than they are. Some people find listening to calming music can help them.
Other relaxation techniques such as yoga or essential oils can help shift your focus away from the noises you are hearing. Another benefit of these methods includes a better night’s sleep, which can be tricky if your tinnitus is more prominent at night.
Ensure you do not make your tinnitus worse by wearing earplugs at loud events. Similarly, make sure your headphones are not too loud to avoid ear damage. You should also take breaks from noise at events to help give your ears a rest and prevent further damage.
If you are struggling to manage your tinnitus or hearing loss, CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) could give you essential coping strategies. Tinnitus should not stop you from enjoying everyday life, and there is plenty of help available.
Do you have any tips on alleviating tinnitus? If yes, we’d love to hear them! Leave a comment below or email us anytime at [email protected]
*Please note, the information listed in our blog, posts and forums is not and should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult with your doctor for diagnostics, treatment and medical information and advice.