FAQs about Tinnitus | Ringing in the ears
Tinnitus is a condition in which you experience a “ringing of the ears” when no other external sound is present. The sound may not always be a ring; tinnitus has appeared as a hiss, whoosh, chirp, click, roar, hum, or whistle. It may appear in one or both ears, and often points to underlying conditions. Read on to learn more about tinnitus as we answer frequently asked questions from our patients. Schedule your tinnitus treatment with us in Paoli, PA.
How many people experience ringing in the ears?
Tinnitus is a fairly common condition affecting Americans – at some point, we have all experience a brief ringing in the ears. The American Tinnitus Association estimates that “one third of all adults experience tinnitus at some point in their lives.” However, 10% to 15% of adults have experienced long-term tinnitus. The US Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly 50 million Americans experience some form of tinnitus, with 2 million that experience debilitating cases.
Are there different types of tinnitus?
There are two types of tinnitus: subjective and objective.
Subjective tinnitus is the most common form of the condition, comprising more than 99% of all tinnitus cases. Subjective tinnitus refers to cases in which only the person who experiences tinnitus hears the sounds. Often times, subjective tinnitus indicates issues with hearing and neurological reactions to hearing loss.
Objective tinnitus, on the other hand, is quite rare, comprising less than 1% of cases. With objective tinnitus, both the person who experiences the symptoms and people within their vicinity may hear the sounds. Objective tinnitus often points to issues with one’s cardiovascular or musculo-skeletal systems.
What causes tinnitus?
The following conditions may cause tinnitus: hearing loss, Meniere’s disease, loud noise exposure, migraines, head injury, ototoxic medication, hypertension, impacted earwax, tumors, cigarettes, high doses of caffeine, and certain types of tumors.
What are the effects of tinnitus?
For people who experience tinnitus 24/7, the symptoms of tinnitus may increase in the nighttime. The sounds and activities of the day may function as a mask to tinnitus symptoms, while at night, in the quiet, you may be more likely to hear the sounds.
The sounds of tinnitus greatly affect a person’s emotional well-being, which in turn affects physical well-being. People who experience tinnitus may experience feelings of social withdrawal, stress, anxiety, depression, nervousness, anger, tension, fatigue, and irritability. Tinnitus affects a good night’s sleep and interferes with productivity on the job.
How can I prevent tinnitus?
The instances of tinnitus increase as people get older, and it is most commonly linked with hearing loss. In fact, 90% of tinnitus cases are accompanied by some form of hearing loss. As such, in preventing tinnitus, people must protect their hearing from noise exposure, such as loud music and occupational hearing hazards (factory work, construction, etc.).
Because tinnitus is closely linked with hearing, a hearing evaluation may point to causes and courses of tinnitus treatment. By identifying the underlying conditions that cause tinnitus, a solution may be possible. If you are experiencing tinnitus, contact us for a free hearing evaluation. We will work together with your physician to bring you solutions to help treat and manage your tinnitus symptoms.
Most cases of tinnitus are unfortunately incurable at this time. Most people with tinnitus related to hearing loss will not see their tinnitus subside, but there are coping strategies that can be very helpful. Often, the worst thing about tinnitus is the mental state created by a noise that is perceived as a constant irritation.
“Masking” is a very useful treatment for many people. Many cases of tinnitus may go mostly unnoticed during the day, when lots of activity and other sound draws our attention away from our tinnitus. Nighttime is usually the most upsetting time to experience tinnitus, as it can keep us from falling asleep. Masking is, quite simply, introducing other sounds into our environments (or directly into our ears) in order to cover up the sound of tinnitus. White noise machines, recordings of ocean waves, or familiar episodes of television shows are all commonly used to mask tinnitus at the times when we lie down to get some rest, or even during the day at times when we are distracted from quiet activities by our tinnitus.
For people whose tinnitus is a result of hearing loss, hearing aids can be very helpful. Simply by amplifying surrounding sounds from the environment, tinnitus can be effectively masked so that it is no longer such a disturbance. For those who can benefit from hearing aids, there are plenty of other reasons why increasing the level of ambient sound is important, but masking tinnitus is a much-appreciated one of them!
Some hearing aids also intentionally include a tinnitus-masking option. Sometimes these sounds can be supersonic, meaning they are in a frequency range that we do not actually hear, but can still help with masking tinnitus.
Tinnitus can bring on a host of strong, negative emotions. Some people have experienced relief from therapy and/or meditation. The idea is not to get rid of the tinnitus, but to learn to live comfortably and at peace with tinnitus. As we learn to give tinnitus less of our attention, it can seem less like a problem and more as just a part of the world we experience.
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