The sound you are hearing in your ears is not a sign that you’re going crazy. That sound is called tinnitus, which is actually a medical condition. The word tinnitus is Latin, and literally means ringing. You’re not alone in trying to find some relief. Tinnitus is described differently by everyone suffering from it – some say they hear constant ringing, buzzing, hissing, and wind rushing just to name a few. If these sounds seem to never go away, you could be suffering from tinnitus.
Kochkin, Tyler, and Born (2011) recently estimated the prevalence of tinnitus in the United States based on a nationally representative sample of more than 46,000 households. The authors summary of their findings includes the following:
- Some 30 million Americans have tinnitus
- Some 13 million Americans report tinnitus without hearing loss
- The incidence of tinnitus for people aged 65 to 84 years is approximately 27 percent
- The prevalence of tinnitus is generally correlated with degree of hearing loss
- Of those with tinnitus, almost 40 percent experience tinnitus during 80 percent of their day
- Approximately 1 in 4 tinnitus sufferers report their tinnitus as loud, 1 in 5 report their tinnitus is disabling or nearly disabling,
- Tinnitus treatment methods with substantial tinnitus amelioration includes hearing aids and music, and “the provision of hearing aids offers substantial benefit to a significant number of people suffering from tinnitus.”
- Source: http://www.audiology.org/news/tinnitus-prevalence
What causes tinnitus?
We still don’t know the exact physiological causes of tinnitus; it often seems to appear out of nowhere. Tinnitus is suspected to result from several possible conditions, such as:
- Ear wax build-up
- Exposure to loud noises – that created permanent hearing loss
- Diabetes related hearing loss
- Ototoxic (toxic to the ear) medications
- Thyroid conditions, fibromyalgia, or Lyme disease
- Meniere’s disease – a disorder of the inner ear
- TMJ issues like jaw misalignment, head and neck trauma, or strained neck muscles
- Acoustic neuroma – a tumor on the vestibular cochlear nerve (it connects the inner ear to the brain)
- Problems with blood flow in arteries of the head or neck
- Smoking cigarettes
- Cardiovascular diseases
In order to find out the root cause of your tinnitus, the physician and the audiologist will conduct a complete medical history, as well as a complete examination. Many people seem to develop tinnitus without an underlying cause. Though not a serious health problem, never-ending tinnitus can cause fatigue, anxiety, memory problems, and even depression. Preventing tinnitus can be as simple as taking steps to protect your overall ear health and hearing.
What Treatments are Available?
Depending on the cause of your tinnitus and other factors, several treatments are available, including medical options as well as alternative therapies.
A common treatment is acoustic therapy or sound therapy. Sound therapy makes use of sounds to help the brain re-focus and diminish the emotional impact of the tinnitus.
Effective tinnitus treatment is multi-pronged and should address the audiological, emotional, and neurological components of the condition. Here are a few treatment options that can provide considerable relief:
Annual hearing screening
Something as simple as excess ear wax can cause tinnitus, so be sure to check your hearing annually.
Many people with tinnitus, especially those with hearing loss, experience complete or partial relief just by using hearing instruments – thereby helping solve two concerns. When there is age-relatedd hearing loss, tinnitus can sometimes be related to the deprivation of normal day-to-day ambient sounds in the environment. Hearing instruments can take care of this problem by bringing sounds back to the damaged part of the cochlea as well as bring the ambient sounds which can help to naturally cover up the tinnitus sounds.