Tinnitus is more common than you think. In fact, about 50 million Americans experience some form of short (lasting a few seconds or a few minutes) or long-term (ongoing or continuous) tinnitus. Out of those 50 million, a little over 20% or 12 million people experience constant or ongoing tinnitus that interferes with their daily life, including a loss of sleep, difficulty concentrating, and negative emotional reactions such as stress, anxiety, frustration, and depression.
We would like to discuss tinnitus to raise awareness of this condition in Southwest Utah and Southern Nevada and inform those affected by it of the best way to manage their symptoms.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is actually a sound that’s produced inside your head, which does not come from any outside source. Those affected by it describe the sounds they hear as ringing, clicking, buzzing, roaring, whistling, or hissing. Each individual experiences different levels of intensity and characteristics can include various high to low pitches with a constant, intermittent, or reverberating tone. Although individuals of all ages can be affected by tinnitus, it is pretty uncommon in children.
What causes tinnitus?
The specific cause of tinnitus remains undefined, but several factors that contribute to the condition typically include:
- Hearing loss
- Prolonged exposure to loud noises
- Exposure to an extreme noise event
- Head injury
- Side effects from ototoxic medications
- Blood pressure issues
- Wax in the ear canal
- Fluid behind the eardrum
- Heart, blood vessel, neck, jaw, or dental issues
Because serious medical issues often contribute to tinnitus symptoms, self-diagnosis and self-treatment are ill-advised. Consulting an audiologist or an otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat doctor) is your best option because these medical professionals will examine all possible causes and treatments for those more serious medical issues rather than only focusing on the symptoms.
How can I manage tinnitus?
It is important to rule out medical causes for your tinnitus in order to achieve proper treatment and management. However, most tinnitus cases do not result from an identifiable or treatable cause. However, there are proven management techniques that produce positive results, including:
- Hearing aids. Because hearing loss and tinnitus tend to go hand in hand, increasing muffled environmental sounds, such as the refrigerator, washing machine, lawnmower, chirping crickets, bird songs, etc., through the use of hearing aids help to distract wearers from the symptoms.
- Sound generators. These devices produce pleasant broadband sounds directly to your ears to help mask tinnitus sounds and reduce your focus on the condition.
- Masking/Hearing Aid Combination. Many modern hearing aids include sound generators designed to mask tinnitus while treating hearing loss.
- Environmental enrichment. These devices generate background noises, such as wind, rain, flowing streams, and waterfalls, as well as non-environmental sounds, such as soft music, to decrease your perception of tinnitus. A special device is not always necessary, as many of these are available as apps for your smartphone or tablet.
- Relaxation techniques. Stress and anxiety add to the intensity of tinnitus symptoms of many individuals. Learning relaxation and coping strategies to reduce stress are effective management techniques in many cases.
- Counseling options. Managing stress and anxiety often requires additional help, which can include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and biofeedback therapy guided by a professional counselor.
- Dental options. Jaw and neck muscle tension from temporomandibular disorder (TMD) can contribute to tinnitus intensity, so getting help with teeth clenching and grinding along with correcting other dental issues can also provide relief.
Hearing and Balance Doctors Can Help You Manage Tinnitus
There are plenty of “products” promising to “cure” your tinnitus. They will take your money, but provide little relief in return. Because serious health conditions or hearing loss are often factors associated with tinnitus, your best odds for managing tinnitus comes from seeking help from a hearing care professional.
Hearing and Balance Doctors can help those in Southern Nevada and Southwestern Utah to identify possible causes of your tinnitus and provide proven management techniques that produce positive results. Contact us if you would like help managing the constant ringing, buzzing, or hissing sounds in your ears.