At Professional Hearing Center we find it very important to share our knowledge about ear-related topics with our community. Today I would like to discuss tinnitus.
Tinnitus is the sound that an individual may hear that is within their head that most commonly no one else can hear. This is very real and affects approximately 50 million Americans. People describe tinnitus as sounding like a high-pitched ringing, static-like noise, buzzing, roaring, pulsing, whistling, saccades, crickets, heartbeat, etc.
Tinnitus can sometimes occur suddenly or in a gradual pattern.
A large majority of people that experience tinnitus have hearing loss mostly due to exposure to loud noises. Examples are people that have occupations where they have been exposed to noise on a daily basis. We often see patients that have worked around aircraft, in factories, or around farm machinery that report tinnitus. They usually report hearing the tinnitus at night when there is no other noise present to compete with the sound in their own ears.
Tinnitus is also caused by other things such as obstructions in the middle ear, head and neck trauma, temporomandibular joint disorder, ototoxic medications, sinus pressure, and barometric trauma.
For several years, many healthcare professionals told their patients that there was no help for tinnitus, and they were told “learn to live with your tinnitus”. Although there is no cure for tinnitus, a lot of research is being done by The American Tinnitus Association. The ATA is a non-profit organization, which is funded by donations. They strive to educate and assist people suffering with tinnitus.
We know that there are many helpful strategies to assist people who suffer with noise in their ears.
Overuse of caffeine may increase tinnitus. Stress commonly seems to worsen tinnitus. Please don’t stress about decreasing your caffeine intake. All laughing aside people do report that reducing these two things helps decrease the annoyance of their tinnitus. I tell patients to do something that helps them relax, such as taking a walk.
Quiet environments also seem to enhance the noise. Distracting noises such as fans, air purifiers, TV’s, radios, and white noise makers help to mask out the tinnitus. There are also applications that can be placed on smart phones or tablets, which can be used as sound machines and help with sleep. Most of the applications are free.
Biofeedback is a relaxation technique that teaches patients to control certain autonomic body functions, such as pulse, muscle tension, and skin temperature. The goal of biofeedback is to help people manage stress and anxiety by changing the body’s reaction to these negative influences, such as tinnitus.
A tinnitus masker is a hearing device which is worn for several hours a day like a hearing aid. This device creates another sound, such as white noise which corresponds with the tinnitus. It is found in certain patients that after use of the device for weeks or months the tinnitus may diminish or resolve.
For tinnitus sufferers with hearing loss, obtaining hearing aids will often improve not only their hearing, but also makes the tinnitus much less noticeable because the person is hearing better again, which helps reduce the awareness of the noise in their ears. This is found to be true in about 85% of people that receive amplification.
If you or a loved one experience tinnitus that is bothersome, it is very important to seek professional help. At Professional Hearing Center we will examine your ears and evaluate your hearing. We will make appropriate recommendations for you and help you manage your tinnitus.