About one in three people will occasionally experience a persistent ringing, pulsating, buzzing, hissing, clicking, or whistling sound in one or both ears.
The medical term for this is tinnitus, and it’s often a sign that something is wrong with your hearing health.
Even though tinnitus is heard in your ears, it’s thought that the noise is caused by your brain cells trying to fix hearing loss by turning up sounds in the hearing part of your brain.
Sometimes tinnitus is the first sign of hearing loss in those over the age of 54, so it can be a good indicator of the need for a hearing health evaluation.
What Are the Two Types of Tinnitus?
- Ninety-nine percent of people have subjective tinnitus, which is caused by hearing system problems.
- The remaining 1% has objective tinnitus, which is caused by medical conditions such as chronic kidney problems, head injuries, or cardiovascular problems.
How Many People Have Tinnitus?
It’s been said that about 30% of all Americans will experience tinnitus at some point in their lives and that about 1 in every 10 Americans has experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes in the past year.
The sad news is that there’s currently no cure for tinnitus, so people believe it can’t be managed with treatment options.
Therefore, about 9 million Americans haven’t sought help for it or their hearing loss.
Tinnitus is essentially causing people to not look after their hearing health.
How It Affects You
While tinnitus might only happen for a short while and never return, it can be so incapacitating for others that they can’t work or do much of anything.
Tinnitus disturbs sleep, affects your ability to focus and remember things, causes anxiety, and can stress you to the point of depression.
Thankfully, there are ways to treat it to where it doesn’t dictate your lifestyle.
Causes of Tinnitus
Tinnitus isn’t a disorder in itself, but it’s usually caused by a physical issue — most often by noise-induced hearing loss over a long period of time.
- Noise-induced hearing loss happens when a person is repeatedly in a place where they are exposed to loud sounds such as industrial or farming equipment, motorsports, music events, gunfire, or explosions.
Otherwise, tinnitus can be caused by sinus infections, diseases of the blood or heart vessels, brain growths, female hormonal changes, thyroid abnormalities, ototoxic medications, or a buildup of earwax.
- Ototoxic medications are certain drugs used to treat cancer, kidney diseases, heart conditions, and malaria that damage the auditory system.
Sometimes there’s no known cause of tinnitus.
A comprehensive hearing evaluation at one of our Clarity Hearing locations is non-invasive and quick.
One of our friendly audiologists will test your hearing, evaluate the volume, pitch, and sound of your tinnitus, look at your medical history, and do a physical exam of your ear canal and eardrum.
We’ll get the results immediately so we can discuss these with you after your evaluation, answer any questions, and decide together how to treat your tinnitus and/or hearing loss.
We’ll also give you tips on preventing future damage to your hearing.
Treatment for Tinnitus
While there is no complete cure for tinnitus, there are a lot of things you can do to lessen the effects of it. These can include:
- Hearing aids – for hearing loss and to relieve tinnitus. Some hearing aids can boost external noise to the point where it masks the tinnitus. Others add white noise.
- Sound masking – wearable or tabletop devices that play white noise or music to mask the tinnitus.
- Acoustic neural stimulation – a newer treatment that delivers a desensitizing acoustic signal to the brain’s neural circuits.
- Counseling – which can include biofeedback relaxation exercises and cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Medications – antidepressants and anti-anxiety meds to help with emotional and mental health stress.
- Limiting coffee and alcohol consumption and stopping smoking – these can trigger and worsen tinnitus.
- Treatment of any medical issues adding to the tinnitus.
A survey of 230 hearing care professionals suggests that six out of ten patients (60%) experience minor to major relief of tinnitus when wearing hearing aids. A total of one in five (22%) receive major relief.
There are ongoing studies of tinnitus treatments, and we’ll certainly be the first to implement any new treatment options should they become available.
What to Do if You Think You Have Tinnitus?
If you think you might have tinnitus, contact us with any questions or to set up an appointment with one of our Clarity Hearing audiologists at a location near you.
We’re in six locations in North Houston, and we’re ready to answer any of your questions and help minimize, and possibly even eliminate, your tinnitus problems.