Understanding Tinnitus & Treatment
Mayo clinic defines tinnitus (TIN-ih-tus) is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. Tinnitus is very real, as it is a “sound that is heard by the person experiencing it (subjective tinnitus), regardless of whether someone else can hear it (objective tinnitus).” Tinnitus can also be a buzzing sound, cicada insect type sounds, high pitch, humming, cricket type sound, clicking, pulse type sound, or other sounds that are constant or periotic. This is an issue that occurs in more people than you may think; affects up to 45 million Americans and 250 million people worldwide suffer from tinnitus. It is also the number one military service disability! Tinnitus can vary in duration and severity. It can be a mild annoyance or a debilitating condition. Treating tinnitus begins with identifying the cause.
What causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus should be thought of a symptom and not a disease. Commonly linked to hearing loss. In addition to hearing loss, tinnitus can be caused by stress or depression, head or neck injuries, Meniere’s disease, cranial nerve tumor, earwax build up, TMJ issues or jaw issues, exposure to loud noises, abnormal bone growth in the ear, ear infections, natural aging of the inner ear, high blood pressure, sensory nerve disorders, and other causes. Caffeine, smoking, drinking alcohol, antibiotics, other medicines and aspirin may intensify tinnitus. However, the two most common causes of chronic tinnitus are noise damage and hearing loss.
What are the most common problems associated with tinnitus?
Tinnitus is often accompanied by other issues! Sleeping problems, being annoyed, being unable to focus, difficulties relaxing, problems focusing on speech, misery and frustration have all been reported. There are ways to work with your tinnitus so it does not impact your life in a negative way!
Diagnosing the cause of your tinnitus requires a complete examination as well as a review of your medical history. If you or a loved one suffers from tinnitus, call today for a consultation and examination by one of the experts at Baker Audiology & Hearing Aids.
What can make my Tinnitus worse?
Reactions to tinnitus are very individual. The most commonly reported factors are high noise levels and stress. Other influences could be caffeine, salt, nicotine, alcohol, neck/cervical issues, grinding your teeth, and other issues have been known to make it worse.
How is Tinnitus related to hearing?
The majority of people with tinnitus report some degree of hearing loss. There is a theory that the brain overcompensates for what it is not getting from the ears by over-amplifying random signals. Which results in the perception of tinnitus. Some experts have another theory and believe that the damage to hair cells in the cochlea (inner ear) can cause tinnitus. When the hair cells are damaged, they are unable to carry out their normal function. It is believed that tinnitus is amplified spontaneous neural activity, resulting in a “ringing in the brain”. Over time the brain can learn to focus on the tinnitus, even when other background sounds are present. However, if the tinnitus is ignored, it takes low priority and “blends” into the background. One can train their brain to do this with many different treatment options.
There are many different ways to treat tinnitus. Medical intervention may help if there is a tumor or abnormal bone growth in the ear. White noise devices and sound therapy are also used to treat tinnitus. If tinnitus interferes with sleep, running a fan next to the bed may help mask the noise.
Tinnitus retraining therapy
One popular form of sound therapy is tinnitus retraining therapy. This treatment conditions your brain to ignore the tinnitus sounds so they don’t bother you so much. The tinnitus is still present, your brain just tunes it out.
Biofeedback and neurofeedback training
This form of therapy provides substantial psychological benefits and provides tinnitus relief. It requires a high degree of commitment to be successful. Once properly trained, you learn to control automatic functions of your body by varying thoughts and emotions.
Hearing aids, Tinnitus maskers and Hearables with Sound generators
Almost 80 percent of people with tinnitus have hearing loss. There are hearing aids with a tinnitus sound generator that has sound therapy to help mask the tinnitus; this is set at a volume at which the tinnitus is partially covered by the sound generated by the hearing device. Hearing loss is usually gradual, so you may not notice it until the tinnitus reaches an uncomfortable level. As hearing is lost, the brain receives less stimulation and changes how it processes sound. Wearing hearing aids results in more sound signals sent to the brain and an increase in background noise to mask the tinnitus.