Around 15% of the American population – over 50 million people in the US – experience tinnitus. Tinnitus is the perception of a sound – most commonly a ringing a clicking sound, but it could be a variety of noises – when there is nothing there. As such, tinnitus is not only an audiological condition but it also a neurological misrepresentation of reality. You hear a sound that isn’t there.
Tinnitus is one of the most common hearing health conditions, which can affect people temporarily or as a chronic health issue. For around two million Americans who experience ongoing tinnitus, it can have a debilitating impact on their lifestyle.
As there is currently no cure for tinnitus, your hearing instrument specialist (HIS) can help you to find relief from the condition with helpful treatments.
What causes tinnitus?
It’s important to understand the potential causes of tinnitus. Indeed, while tinnitus doesn’t yet have a scientifically approved or demonstrated cure, specialists will help you to figure out the best possible approach by analyzing the possible triggers behind your condition.
As such, the most common cause is damage to the tiny hair cells in the cochlea – inner ear. The damage can occur as a result of old age – it’s a natural process – or as a result of exposure to loud noises. Therefore, it is fair to say that for a lot of people, tinnitus tends to be a symptom of hearing loss. As the brain receives fewer sound stimuli from the auditory system, it changes and adapts to correct the issue. This might coincide with the perception of sounds that aren’t here.
Additionally, some medications can damage your inner ear and generate the condition.
Other possible causes include:
- Injuries to the head and neck area which can affect the inner ear
- Infections in the ear
- TMJ disorders
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Obstruction when a foreign object touches the eardrum
Can you make tinnitus go away?
While there is no guaranteed cure for tinnitus, the condition can be temporary. When it is linked to a highly stressful lifestyle, patients have found that making lifestyle adjustments and managing their stress levels can lead to gradual and sometimes permanent relief.
Similarly, when tinnitus is caused by a foreign object or earwax buildup, safe removal by a specialist can alleviate the issue altogether.
However, when tinnitus appears in its chronic form, you will need the guidance of your HIS to find the best solution to tame the ringing sound in your ears. Because hearing specialists have not yet discovered a cure to eradicate the neurological perception of sounds, they rely on audiological support to manage chronic tinnitus.
Can hearing aids only solve the problem?
Your HIS can help you to manage your audiological condition with specialist hearing aids. Indeed, tinnitus coincides with hearing loss, providing the necessary correction can relieve some of the symptoms.
Additionally, hearing aids with masking features can dramatically reduce the perception of ringing in your ears, allowing you to regain your communication abilities. Masking features essential expose you to a real and external sound at a volume loud enough to distract from the noise heard by tinnitus patients.
For temporary tinnitus conditions, which may appear while your ears heal from damaging sound exposure, your HIS will recommend protection to allow your hearing to recover.
Sounds therapies can provide long-term relief
Sound masking can cover the perception of noise caused by tinnitus. However, sound therapies can be recommended by your HIS to provide lasting relief in severe cases. Sound machines are designed to create customized sounds that are either algorithmically modified sounds with emphasized tones or frequencies or notched music. The devices can be worn to alleviate the disruption caused by tinnitus. In the long term, sound therapies with sound machines, along with sound retraining, can help people to tune out the perception of tinnitus.
Finally, your HIS can advise on new lifestyle habits
While it’s hard to pinpoint precisely which lifestyle habits trigger tinnitus, improving your health through careful lifestyle adjustments can help to alleviate symptoms. People who are often subject to high stress can consider taking steps toward reducing their perceived stress levels, through quitting smoking or drinking, for instance. Similarly, positive habits can also reduce your vulnerability to cardiovascular illnesses and diabetes, which can alleviate some if not all symptoms. Additionally, excess consumption of medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin has been linked to the apparition of tinnitus in patients. You’ll find that adjusting your use can dramatically transform your symptoms.