Have you ever found yourself distracted by sounds with no source- tones and noises that only you can hear? Hearing phantom noise or a ringing in your ear is the defining symptom to a frustrating condition called tinnitus and can be an indicator of serious hearing issues.
There are many different ways in which tinnitus occurs, from chronic, intrusive tonal noises to brief periods of ringing in the ears after a loud event like a concert or sports game. Having some form of tinnitus is incredibly common, at least 1 in every 5 people will experience tinnitus in their lifetime. Whether tinnitus affects them for a few hours or many years, tinnitus has the same root cause: hearing damage.
What Is Tinnitus?
Our hearing is dependent on the sensitive hair cells of our inner ear that pick up specific sound vibrations and send signals to our brain. Our hair cells are as vulnerable as they are sensitive. Loud noise can overwhelm and injure the hair cells while other factors like medical problems or certain medications can also be a source of harm. Damage to a hair cell can cause it to signal noises that aren’t really there. This is what creates a sound that only the person suffering from tinnitus can hear.
Sadly, damage to our hair cells, when it occurs, is usually permanent, as our body has no means of repairing or regenerating them. The gradual accumulation of impaired hair cells can become significant hearing loss. When you experience a ringing in your ear, especially if it persists for days or follows an illness, it is a good indicator it may be time to have your hearing tested.
When coupled with untreated hearing loss, tinnitus can become oppressive. In the absence of other noises, tonal ringing can become the dominant element of a person’s soundscape, detracting from their ability to concentrate on other sounds or notice sonic nuance.
What Can Be Done?
Tinnitus isn’t life-threatening but that doesn’t mean it can’t have a huge impact on your life. Tinnitus sounds are distracting and can lead to tension and frustration. Often tinnitus noise is jarring and atonal or it can encompass noises that sound like clicks or taps, hissing air or deep tones, like the roar of the ocean. The extra noises of tinnitus can make focusing on other tasks and conversations unwieldy. It can detract from our ability to work, sleep and enjoy our favorite activities.
The bad news is there is no universal cure for tinnitus. The variance in the ways tinnitus manifests and the inability of inner ear to repair itself contribute to why a general cure for tinnitus may not be feasible.
Fortunately, there are multiple effective treatment paths available, with doctors and researchers honing new approaches to managing and minimizing tinnitus. Much tinnitus relief is built around finding a customizable palette of neutral sounds and music that can detract from the sonic dominance of tinnitus’ noises.
For the person who deals with tinnitus occasionally, relief may come with a smart phone app. There is an ever-growing selection of options for generating adaptable background noise. Select an app like SimplyNoise or Whist that is focused on tinnitus therapy. Options like TinniTracks takes a music-driven approach to tinnitus management while some, like ReSound Relief are developed by research at a top hearing aid manufacturer.
For those whose tinnitus is paired with significant hearing loss, the best treatment option may lie in finding a hearing aid with incorporated tinnitus therapy. Hearing aid –driven tinnitus therapy means that tones and exercises to relieve tinnitus can be streamed directly into the ear canal through the device. Styles like Starkey’s Muse IQ and Widex’s Beyond with ZEN are built to integrate tinnitus therapy into your everyday hearing. Without an amplified tinnitus strategy that hearing devices offer, those with hearing loss may not be able effectively access tinnitus therapies.
How to Hear Better
If you have been experiencing persistent tinnitus or other changes in your hearing, it’s time to get in touch with Exceptional Hearing Care. Our expert team can help you connect with tinnitus solutions and strategies, as part of a larger picture of hearing wellness. We offer our patients a wide selection of the best hearing solutions with great options for every lifestyle. If you’ve got hearing questions, we’ve got your answers.
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