A common elaboration of tinnitus is the ringing ears. You might have heard people complaining about a constant ringing voice in ears. It feels like clicking, whistling or hissing sound, which may or may not is permanently felt.
Sometimes it feels only for a few minutes. But it may last for hours and takes a chronic form. Tinnitus has affected 50 million Americans which shows that it is quite prevalent. The patients with tinnitus are mostly older aged people.
Age is not a restriction for tinnitus. Children and young adults are also at risk of having it. The reasons, which affect your hearing, are noise, head or neck injury and ear infections the most. Sometimes these problems take a serious medical condition called tinnitus.
There is no treatment or medicines for tinnitus. There is no way to heal it. The patients with tinnitus manage to live with it and adjust their tasks to it. Home remedies and painkillers may work, but they aren’t directed to eradicate the infection.
In severe forms of tinnitus, it is nearly impossible for the patient to sleep correctly. Many of the patients end up being insomniac. They may face attention deficient problems, declining work or exam performance, fatigue, depression, and even anxiety.
How does tinnitus affect you?
Tinnitus is a different type of sound, which is not because of any outer source to you. It is not even a disease itself. It is a symptom, which has underlying reasons for it. The term “feeling noise” in tinnitus is subjective because only he can hear it.
The highest and frequent form of tinnitus is a gradually progressing high pitch ringing sound. It is very annoying, but it is not any serious problem. In less than 1% of the cases, it is due to the noise around you. Means if you are in a crowd, it may induce it too.
Cardiovascular or musculoskeletal movements inside the person’s body cause it, which is normal. Rarely it can be a sign of any medical emergency.
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Common signs that you have tinnitus
Tinnitus is just an internal sound, which can be continuous or disrupted. Only the person suffering from it can feel it. It can occur in one or both ears, on low to high pitch. What the person hears it can be described differently.
But one thing is common that repeated hearing of these sounds becomes annoying. The volume, intensity, and pitch differ for everyone. It usually depends on the underlying condition. In extreme cases, tinnitus can be an indication of a hearing loss.
How to make a diagnosis?
Anyone who feels that he is tinnitus should visit a doctor or the nearest healthcare provider for a complete checkup. It is only after a comprehensive examination and evaluation that tinnitus is diagnosed.
You may think that if tinnitus doesn’t have a treatment, why is going for a medical evaluation necessary. That is required to identify the reason behind tinnitus. There could be anything causing it. If it is a serious infection or problem, you may end up with hearing loss.
When you go to the doctor, he will ask you a few questions regarding your condition. Such as
- When did it start?
- How do you feel?
- How much intense it becomes?
- Do you have constant noise around you?
- How often do you watch TV or listen to music on high volume?
- Do you have an ear infection or ever had an ear infection?
- Are you feeling dizziness too?
- Is there any pain?
- Did you have an accident or injury?
- Have you ever experienced explosions or deafening music?
He will check you physically as well. It may include the following.
- A complete examination of ear
- Examination of head
- Examination of neck
- Examination of torso
- Blood tests
- Hearing tests
- Imaging tests/ scans
Based on the reports, the doctor will find the reason behind tinnitus for you. If that underlying condition is treated on time, tinnitus may never show up.
Causes of tinnitus
Tinnitus affects the person when there is damage to tiny sensory hair cells which are located on the cochlea of the inner ear. Sometimes a partial loss of these structures also causes tinnitus.
You are more likely to get it as you age. For most of the cases, it happens due to the exposure to loud music or noise. Often a hearing loss also coincides with it.
Is it treatable?
To treat tinnitus, the most basic step is to identify the cause of tinnitus. There could be some reasons involved such as:
- A poorly managed/unhealed ear infection
- Leaving any ototoxic medicines
- Treating a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problems
There is no as such treatment for tinnitus. When people are affected by it, most of the times they become habitual of it. Ignoring it is better than taking excessive medication for it. The medicines are not yet able to heal it. Using a painkiller may work sometimes.
If nothing works, the best is to tackle the problems arising from it, i.e., stress, depression, hearing problems, social isolation, etc. It will help to improve the quality of life.
Do home remedies work for tinnitus?
Home remedies for tinnitus are helpful to some extent. Following are a few remedies that may work for you.
Sound therapy: Sound therapy is a process that uses external noise to change the perception of tinnitus. The noise used under this therapy is not just any ordinary sound. Mostly low-level background music, white noise or specialized ear maskers are used for it.
The music selection is made as per the person’s taste. This masking effect is temporary and not long lasting. As the sound therapy ends, the tinnitus returns. One way to use a permanent sound therapy is through a hearing aid.
Hearing aids are the devices that amplify the environmental sounds, and the person pays more attention to them, ignoring the tinnitus sounds. So it’s not a therapy to treat tinnitus but an adaptive measure to live with it.
Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT): It involves the retaining of auditory system which accepts the irregular sounds of tinnitus as a natural thing and doesn’t make them feel disruptive.
It requires a trained professional to do this. The surfer wears a device that emits low-level white noise to the ears. The sessions are only useful when regularly done. Otherwise, it may not be of any use.
This therapy also depends on the severity and nature of the underlying disease. Studies suggest that TRT is helpful for more than 80% of the people suffering from tinnitus.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): It is a way to control the anxiety and fatigue caused by tinnitus. It reduces the stress, but it doesn’t lessen the tinnitus sounds
Healthy lifestyle: a lifestyle shift helps to prevent tinnitus and the most severe complications of it.
Use the following to reduce the damage by tinnitus.
- Avoid noise
- Wear hearing protection devices in noise.
- Do not turn up the volume very high.
- Do not use headphones.
- Eat healthy
- Follow a proper workout regime.
Common risk factors for tinnitus
Certain things enhance the risk of Tinnitus. It is a common problem in the USA but having a few risk factors just increases the chance of getting affected by it. The risk factors for tinnitus include following.
- Noise pollution is primarily coming from your workplace or personal devices such as headphones, gatherings, i.e., concerts and accidents like explosions around the person.
- Excessive smoking
- Gender (Men are at a higher risk than men, the reason is not studied by research)
- Loss of hearing due to a disease or accident
- age, as older people are at a higher risk