At least 10 percent of all Americans experience tinnitus at some point in their life. Tinnitus is not a disease, but rather a symptom typically related to the auditory system. To determine how to best treat tinnitus, it’s important to understand its causes and symptoms. Commonly described as hearing a ringing, buzzing, whooshing, hissing or other sound in your ears or head, tinnitus isn’t caused by an external noise. These sounds are heard only by the person experiencing the tinnitus, but the intensity and pitch can sometimes be measured by an audiologist. Tinnitus can be constant or intermittent.
Some other symptoms of tinnitus can include sleep disruption, stress, anxiety, frustration, depression, and lack of concentration.
Causes of Tinnitus
There are several factors that can cause tinnitus, including the following:
- Exposure to loud noise
- Hearing loss
- Ear infection
- Trauma to the ear
- Earwax buildup
- Meniere’s disease
- Vascular disorders
Tinnitus may be caused by one or more of these conditions. Eliminating tinnitus is possible if the cause is temporary, such as an ear infection or a buildup of earwax. Some people, once the cause of the tinnitus is known, are able to habituate, or get used to, the sound on their own. Others require treatment to alleviate their symptoms.
While tinnitus cannot be cured, it can be treated! Research and development of technology has created new devices and treatment protocols established and proven to improve people’s perception of their tinnitus. The general process of tinnitus treatment is outlined below:
- Diagnostic test, including: A hearing health history, otoscopic inspection of both ear canals to check for earwax and a full hearing test should be performed. Also, some type of tinnitus questionnaire should be administered to assess the severity your tinnitus and the impact it has on your daily life.
- Hearing aids: About 60% of people with tinnitus find relief by treating their hearing loss with hearing aids.
- Sound therapy: Even if a hearing loss isn’t present, hearing aids can be equipped with synthesized sounds to help you habituate (get used to) your tinnitus. For some people, their tinnitus is only experienced at nighttime. For these people, a white noise machine may be ideal and provide relief.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may also be recommended to help treat the varying emotions you may experience with tinnitus.
- Relaxation Techniques are shown to improve sleep and reduce stress, both of which are conditions commonly associated with tinnitus.
If you are suffering from tinnitus, schedule an appointment with an audiologist trained to treat tinnitus. They will work to identify the cause behind your tinnitus and recommend the appropriate treatment.