Do you ever hear a ringing or buzz in your ears? The technical term for this is tinnitus and is actually a condition which affects an estimated 32 percent of the U.S. population, according to National Center for Health Statistics studies. Tinnitus is defined as the
the sensation of hearing a sound in the absence of any external sound. This means that the sound is being perceived from inside your mind. Symptoms can come and go but for many it can be so distracting that it causes stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, and issues concentrating.
Who gets tinnitus?
Tinnitus is more common in people who have hearing loss or other ear problems. Though it can be present in people with normal hearing, the prevalence of tinnitus increases to 70-85 percent in the hearing-impaired population. Everyone experiences tinnitus differently. Some may perceive it as a whoosh, a ring, a hum, or a buzz. Some even perceive it as phantom music. The Centers for Disease Control CDC reports that approximately 15% of the general public — over 50 million Americans — experience some form of tinnitus. However only an estimated 20 million people struggle with burdensome chronic tinnitus. However, in about 2 million cases, people’s tinnitus is so extreme it is debilitating and interferes with daily life.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not necessarily related to hearing but because of the prevalence in the hearing-impaired population, a connection is suspected. This is most likely because hearing loss occurs when damage occurs in the inner ear. Tiny hair cells called stereocilia become damaged by loud noise, some chemicals, old age, or infection. Damage to the stereocilia is also believed to cause them to misfire information to the auditory cortex in the brain. This can cause the sensation of feedback which you perceive as tinnitus symptoms.
It is believed that while tinnitus can be caused by changes in the ears it can also be caused by an increase in stress. Life changes such as moving, a new job or the death of a loved one can increase the prevalence of tinnitus. This is because tinnitus is actually attributed to an increase in brain activity rather than hearing loss. For instance, when sounds are loud or we experience stress, the brain responds by trying to get more information from the ear. The extra information often manifests as tinnitus.
Like hearing loss, tinnitus is often permanent. While it comes and goes as we age it can become more persistent. However, there are several methods which decrease the effects of tinnitus.
Masking: Many find success with covering up the buzz of tinnitus with another less stressful sound. Many enjoy a white noise machine, or quiet music to aid in sleep. Some hearing aids also come equipped with tinnitus masking features, which can be used all day long to cover up a distracting buzz of tinnitus.
Talking to someone: People around you may not understand what tinnitus is and how it might affect you. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is led by a therapist who can guide you through your response to tinnitus. Instead of becoming alarmed and stressed when tinnitus is present it can be helpful to try to find calm and decentralize it in our consciousness.
Relaxation: Because tinnitus is amplified by stress, doing what you can to stay calm is essential. Many have found success treating tinnitus through meditation. By focusing simply on being, many have found that their tinnitus symptoms are able to go to the back of their consciousness. Others enjoy reducing stress by regular exercise or acupuncture.
Using a Hearing Aid
Tinnitus and hearing loss can make it difficult to communicate with the people you love, people you encounter out in the world and at work. This can cause communication issues which impact sense of self-worth, self-esteem and sense of independence and affects mobility. Over the years this increases stress, anxiety and causes chronic depression. Treating hearing loss with hearing aids can amplify sounds and allow you to hear clearly again.
With dedication you can reduce stress caused by hearing loss and lessen tinnitus symptoms as well. The first step is identifying your hearing issues in the first place. Schedule a hearing exam today, the sooner the better. We can help you find the best treatment for you to minimize tinnitus and help with hearing loss.