Do you ever experience ringing in your ears? Or buzzing? Maybe a pulsing sensation that won’t go away? If so, you may be experiencing a condition called tinnitus. Tinnitus is a very common hearing condition that affects as many as one in five people worldwide. By definition, tinnitus is a condition that causes you to hear ringing or roaring sounds that only you can hear. Some people have a mild case of tinnitus that only occurs intermittently and rarely interferes with day-to-day living. However, other people with tinnitus hear the noise constantly and have difficulty concentrating and sleeping. It may eventually interfere with work and personal relationships, resulting in psychological distress, depression and anxiety.
Known Causes of Tinnitus
In some cases, tinnitus sufferers develop symptoms for no obvious reasons. In other cases, there is a correlation between environment and tinnitus. The most common cause is prolonged exposure to loud noises. For instance, individuals who work in high decibel environments are at high risk for developing tinnitus. These individuals are also at high risk for hearing loss and should take every precaution to protect their hearing. Other noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) factors, such as attending loud concerts or listening to music with headphones or earbuds, also increases the risk for tinnitus. Still, NIHL isn’t the only cause of tinnitus. Other causes include:
- Blockages of the ear due to ear wax
- Ear and sinus infections
- Medical conditions that effect blood flow such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, allergies or diabetes
- Injuries to the head and neck
- Certain tumors of the ear and brain
- Some medications and pain relievers
- General aging
- Neck or jaw problems such as TMJ or TMD
Treatment for Tinnitus
In some cases, tinnitus can be treated by addressing the physical or medical cause of the symptom. For instance, removing wax build-up or changing a medication may provide immediate relief. In other cases, there is no real “cure” for tinnitus, but there are steps you take to make noise less annoying. Some people try white noise machines, particularly when trying to sleep. Others have tried medications, but these can cause troublesome side effects. Still others report some success with alternative medicines such as acupuncture, hypnosis and nutritional supplements.
Smart Hearing Aids
Certain treatments may “calm” the tinnitus sound. These masking devices and hearing aids produce a continuous, low-level white noise that suppresses tinnitus symptoms. For instance, Concept by Iowa Hearing Aid Centers offers a series of iPhone-compatible hearing aids from their Concept Complete series. The Concept Complete includes a built-in tinnitus therapy sound generator that uses the calming sounds of water to achieve relief from tinnitus. Solutions are available for patients with or without hearing loss.