Do you have a ringing in your ears? You might have tinnitus.
Tinnitus is the ability to hear noises that aren't present in our environment. It is usually linked to hearing loss caused by exposure to loud sounds, but it could result from other ear conditions. Although annoying, it's not typically a sign of any severe conditions by itself and generally gets better over time.
About 10 percent of the U.S. adult population, around 25 million Americans, has had tinnitus lasting at least five minutes over the past year. For people aged 65 to 84 years, approximately 27 percent have tinnitus.
Anyone can have tinnitus, including children, but it's more widespread in adults. You might have already experienced it for a short time - maybe you went to a loud concert or have recently recovered from an illness. Although concerning, these short bouts of ringing are usually nothing to worry about. However, if they regularly last longer than five minutes, or impact your quality of life, it's time to seek medical attention.
What tinnitus sounds like
There are a full range of tinnitus sounds. Many describe it as 'ringing in the ears,' but it can sound like hissing, sizzling, buzzing, whooshing, white noise, music, or even voices.
Individual experiences with tinnitus can vary wildly. It might be a single sound or multiple competing sounds. It might be low, medium, or high-frequency. It might be constant, or it might only last a few seconds. Some people experience 'pulsatile tinnitus,' which is a rhythmic sound that beats in time with your heart. On rare occasions, tinnitus can be confused with 'auditory hallucinations,' which can sound like parts of melodies/songs or speech.
Tinnitus is often temporary, but it can be persistent enough to annoy many sufferers. An estimated 1 in 4 tinnitus sufferers say their tinnitus is loud, with a further 1 in 5 admitting their condition is 'disabling' or 'nearly disabling.' 40% of those with tinnitus experience sounds that last for 80% of their day.
Causes of tinnitus
There are many theories about the origins of tinnitus, but most cases are associated with hearing loss due to damage of the inner ear as a result of exposure to loud noise. Less commonly, tinnitus is associated with conductive hearing loss, caused by an obstruction or ear condition that afflicts the outer or middle ear and stops sound from passing into the ear canal. Tinnitus in only one ear, especially if it occurs in time with your heartbeat, can be indicative of a more serious underlying condition.
How does it affect people?
Tinnitus affects people differently, depending on the severity and how people respond to it. Many with tinnitus only find it mildly annoying and feel it doesn’t affect their day-to-day life a great deal. Those who experience louder and more persistent sounds might find that tinnitus significantly impacts their lives. It can lead to difficulty sleeping, concentrating, and a general sense of anxiety.
There are many ways you can manage tinnitus, to reduce its impact on your everyday life.
Relaxation exercises: Learning to relax correctly and manage your stress levels helps you manage your tinnitus.
Talking therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a method of talking therapy. The person with hearing loss is taught ways to manage their response to tinnitus, which will help them deal with tinnitus in their daily lives.
Hearing aids/masking devices/sound generators: The use of hearing aids can help wearers hear the previously unheard sound, which can mask the tinnitus symptoms they have. Many hearing aids also come with a selection of therapeutic sounds that can mask or reduce the tinnitus sound, helping you ignore it better. For people without hearing loss, masking devices/sound generators can provide sound therapy without additional amplification.
Are you experiencing tinnitus which is affecting your everyday life? Please schedule a consultation with us to find out more. We can create a step-by-step plan to help you manage your tinnitus so you can get back to living your best life.
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