Tinnitus is a hearing disorder that is characterized by hearing of noises, basically buzzing, chirping, roaring, clicking or ringing in the ears of the people affected. The noise can be heard in one or both ears and it varies in pitch and level of interference with hearing. It can be noticed especially when in quiet places or at night when trying to catch sleep in a room that is free from noises. So let’s have a look what it is, what causes tinnitus and what we can do to treat it.
Tinnitus has an adverse effect on concentration and can sometimes be so loud that it can affect hearing and perception of real sound. Despite the annoyance and the bothersome nature of tinnitus, it is not a medical condition but a symptom of an underlying hearing disorder that can arise due to factors such as loss of hearing due to ageing, an injury to the ear or problems affecting the blood circulatory system.
The Different Types Of Tinnitus
The condition can cause complications that may lead to fatigue, sleeping problems, poor concentration, memory loss, depression, anxiety among other problems.
Before we go on to look at possible causes it’s important to recognise the two different types / classifications of tinnitus:
It is the most common type of tinnitus and is caused by problems to the various parts of the ear. The noises, in this case, can only be heard by the person affected.
Trauma or noise-induced hearing loss represents the most common cause of subjective tinnitus.
Also common factors include earwax accumulation, external ear infection, Meniere disease, age-related hearing loss and middle ear effusion. Often an exact cause cannot be identified.
This is where the noises can only be heard by the doctor when they are examining the patient. But this type of complication is rare.
In this case, the pulsating nature of the sound results from altered blood flow, atherosclerosis or blood turbulence near the ear. In fact, problems in the circulatory system very often lead to the appearance of ringing noise in the ears.
What Causes Tinnitus?
There’s no one specific cause. However, a number of factors have been attributed to causing tinnitus common among them;
Inner ear cell damage
This is the most common cause of tinnitus. The inner ear has tiny hair cells which move in relation to pressure exerted on them by sound waves. The movement triggers ear cells to send an electric wave through the auditory nerve to the brain which then interprets the signals as sound. Any abnormality suffered by the hair cells such as getting broken or bent, they start sending random signals to the brain which then causes the noises in the ears.
Hearing loss due to ageing
Many people tend to lose their hearing with age a condition medically termed as presbycusis mostly after attaining 60 years. This is due to the deterioration of parts of the ear associated with hearing most notably the cochlea. Loss of hearing, in turn, causes tinnitus.
Exposure to loud noises
Exposing your ears to loud noises such as those made by heavy equipment and machinery, firearms, large music systems, chainsaws among others can cause tinnitus. Playing loud music on electronic equipment such as MP3’s and iPods for prolonged periods of time can lead to tinnitus. If the exposure occurs for short periods of time then the condition is likely to go away after some time but if it occurs for long periods of time then it can cause permanent damage to the ears consequently causing permanent tinnitus. Exposure to one time extremely loud noise such as a gunshot can lead to permanent tinnitus
The blockage caused by the accumulation of ear wax
The role of ear wax is to prevent the entry of dirt into the inner ear by trapping it and also inhibit the growth of bacteria. The ear has a natural mechanism of getting rid of or cleaning of excess ear wax. When the ear wax accumulates to excessive levels, it becomes difficult for it to be naturally washed away leading to blockage of the ear hence hearing loss or irritation of the eardrum consequently causing tinnitus.
Changes to the ear bone
Abnormal growth of the ear bone may sometimes occur for example otosclerosis which is characterized by stiffening of the bones in the middle ear. This leads to hearing complications which in turn may cause tinnitus. The condition is mostly genetic and it runs in families.
Injuries to the head or neck
Injuries to the head or neck may cause damage to the inner ear, the brain or nerves related to transmission of hearing signals. This, in turn, causes difficulties in hearing hence tinnitus. This cause mostly affects only one ear.
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders
This is the joint on each side of the head just in front of the ears. Problems to this joint may lead to tinnitus.
This is a disorder that affects the inner ear and is normally caused by abnormal inner ear fluid pressure. Tinnitus is one of the early indicators of the Meniere’s disease.
Blood vessel disorders
Although in rare cases, blood vessel disorders may lead to tinnitus. In such cases, it is referred to as pulsatile tinnitus. It is caused by such factors as high blood pressure, head and neck tumors, atherosclerosis and turbulent blood flow.
Some types of medication
In some cases, the use of some types of medicines may lead to or worsen tinnitus. Sometimes simply stopping these medications can cure your tinnitus. Obviously consult with your doctor first.
Some of the most common types of medicines known to cause tinnitus are; cancer medicines, antibiotics, quinine, diuretics, certain depressants, aspirins (when taken in high doses), sedatives and anti-inflammatory drugs. Check the side effects with a medical professional.
Tinnitus Treatment Options
First Step To Stop The Ringing.
Due to the fact that tinnitus is a symptom of another problem (not the actual condition itself), before deciding on the right tinnitus treatment options for you, you must first diagnose and determine the condition, which is responsible for the ringing and buzzing. A medical exam that checks the underlying reasons for tinnitus will help determine what the actual problem is. It will also help a professional determine what the best treatment for you might be. A full evaluation will establish the root cause and identify any hearing loss that is associated with tinnitus. Some of the underlying causes for the symptoms include:
- Impacted ear or an ear infection.
- Middle ear tumors.
- Meniere’s disease or middle ear problems; and other causes.
Important – Seek Medical Advice.
Before immediately turning to any of the tinnitus treatment options we strongly recommend that you first visit an audiologist. This is going to allow a medical professional to determine if hearing loss is present. It will also determine what other auditory conditions the individual might be dealing with. Since tinnitus can’t be measured, the audiologist uses a subjective approach, and asks the patients questions (which ear the ringing is in, how loud is it, what is the pitch?, etc).
Once the audiologist determines the condition, the severity, and root cause, then you will discuss the different tinnitus treatment options available to you, and which ones are best for your condition.
Like other personal conditions one might experience, hypnosis is one of the best options available for treatment. You have two options. You can either go a visit a local hypnotist who specialises in treatment of this kind. We suggest you do plenty of research to make sure they are well respected and highly recommended first. There will likely be several visits and it can work out a little expensive though.
Alternatively, why not try a self-hypnosis program. Tinnitus Treatment is incredibly cost effective (at less than $15) and comes with a money back guarantee. Better still … it works! We know many people who have learned to better manage the condition using this program and it’s really improved their lives.
Silencers & Maskers.
Another of the tinnitus treatment options is to use tinnitus maskers. These devices won’t stop the ringing but will lessen the sound, severity, or pitch of the sounds that you hear. So, although this does not get rid of the ringing, it is a proven and recognised way to lessen the noise levels you hear. This device can help you sleep better and concentrate better. It will allow you to function a little closer to normality without hearing such a high pitched sound in the ear. The masker looks like a hearing aid. It’s basically a device used as a distraction so it helps you forget about the ringing sound.
Partial Tinnitus Masking
Another successful technique for dealing with the sound of tinnitus is called partial masking. This entails hiding the sound of your tinnitus by listening to sounds that are very similar. This can include nature sounds, computer sounds or even the sound of a fan. Gradually lower the other sounds until your tinnitus appears to be as inconsequential as the other sounds you hear every day. In other words you’re finding a source of noise which will blend with your tinnitus but not cover it up entirely, like the sound of light music, waves or a fan. By playing the sound while your tinnitus is loud you’ll get used to the sound in your ears while building a positive emotional reaction to it.
White Noise Generator
A white noise generator may be helpful at night. Having sound in the background can help you fall asleep despite your tinnitus. A lot of people find that tinnitus is made worse by tinnitus. Try it out and see what is most effective for your condition.
Stop and listen to your home to see what white noise you hear, then use it to help you to cover up the sounds in your ears due to tinnitus. For example, in your room, open the window to see if there’s sounds outside that will cover over the ringing in your ears.
Having gentle white noise can help you fall asleep when you have tinnitus, but loud noise can sometimes make your situation worse. Keeping earplugs with you when you travel can help you fall asleep without being kept awake by the parties in the next room or other noisy annoyances.
Counselling & Habituation Therapies.
By discussing the condition, the reasons you experience it, and the occurrence or frequency, professionals might be able to help individuals lessen the severity of the tinnitus. Although this is a holistic approach to treatment, in many cases certain individuals will not qualify for surgical procedures, or other more drastic approaches, if the ringing is only minimal, and is not affecting other senses.
If you experience loss of hearing, along with the ringing, then hearing aids may be one of the tinnitus treatment options available to you. The hearing aid can help lessen the buzzing and ringing, especially if the hearing loss is extreme. When you go back to the right hearing level, and can hear your normal surroundings properly, it can help mask the noises associated with tinnitus.
These devices, whether it is the soothing ocean sounds, or sounds of falling rain, can also help to soothe the intensity of the tinnitus you experience. If you experience the tinnitus at night, or if you are in quiet conditions, these machines can provide a great benefit to you. They can help downplay the severity of the tinnitus that you do experience.
Foods & Diet.
Certain foods (or diet changes) can be used to help treat the condition. Low sodium foods are a particularly good option. Since hypertension is an underlying cause of tinnitus, if your diet is too high in sodium, you are going to experience the loudest noises. By making simple modifications to the diet, you can treat the condition.
Unfortunately this is not going to provide long term results, but there are some medications that can help lessen the severity of the symptoms. Drugs like xanax (anxiety medication) or anticonvulsant medications (help to prevent seizures), have had some benefits for individuals trying to treat tinnitus.
The most drastic of the tinnitus treatment options is a surgical procedure. This is generally only done if there are problems with the senses (other than the ringing, hearing loss, visual or smell). The surgical procedure can help those who experience severe conditions of tinnitus, where they are not able to function because of severe migraines from the ringing, or have trouble concentrating because of it. Surgery for this condition requires a high degree of specialization and is generally only performed on the rarest occasions.