Tinnitus (tin-NY-tus) is a common problem affecting some 25 million Americans. Most of the time, tinnitus is described as “ringing in the ears,” and it is a phantom high-pitched tone that only the patient can hear. But not all tinnitus appears as a ringing sound.
Other forms that tinnitus can take include:
- Screeching (like a chainsaw)
- Pulsing or whooshing, in rhythm with your heartbeat (Pulsatile Tinnitus)
Tinnitus is not a health problem in and of itself, but a symptom that can result from a number of underlying issues. Some of these issues may result in permanent tinnitus, while others may be treatable such that tinnitus can be reduced or alleviated. However, the underlying causes of tinnitus can be very difficult to diagnose, and in most cases the root cause is never found.
Typical Cause of Tinnitus
While these are the most common causes of tinnitus, there are many other rarer afflictions that can bring it about. Tinnitus can even be caused or worsened by stress and caffeine, and TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder) is increasingly understood as a cause of tinnitus.
Tinnitus affects nearly everyone differently. While some people are not bothered by it, others may find that it impacts their life significantly. Many people find that tinnitus is not bothersome during the day, but can affect their ability to sleep at night. While many types of tinnitus are incurable, treatment is always available that can focus on learning to live more comfortably with tinnitus.
Some of the typical causes of tinnitus include:
At Exceptional Hearing Care, our professionals can help recommend a course of action to deal with persistent tinnitus. While each patient may respond better or worse to different forms of treatment, it is our commitment to work with each person to find the best option for them.
Masking is one of the most effective treatments for tinnitus. Essentially, masking involves introducing a sound into your environment or directly into your ears that covers up the sound of your tinnitus. We may find it easier to sleep, for example, with a fan whirring in the room than with the sound of the ringing in our ears, and the fan may cover up the sound of the ringing very effectively. Masking machines are also available that introduce a variety of types of sound into your room, or into a set of headphones. Many hearing aids also have the option to introduce tinnitus masking sounds, which you can turn on and off whenever you like.
While no preventative measure is a guarantee against tinnitus, there are some things you can do to greatly reduce your likelihood of developing tinnitus.
- Wear Hearing Protection. Earplugs, earmuffs, or simply covering your ears with your hands when you’re in the presence of loud sounds are important ways to prevent not only tinnitus but hearing loss, as well. Custom hearing protection for professionals who work around loud sound—or enthusiasts who spend a lot of time in loud environments—can be crucial instruments to help protect your hearing.
- Keep Volume Levels Low. Don’t intentionally expose yourself to damaging sound levels! Listen to music or entertainment at a level that is just loud enough to hear clearly.
- Stay Healthy. Exercise, eat healthy (anti-inflammatory diets are recommended), and avoid substances like nicotine, alcohol and caffeine. Better heart health translates to better ear health!