Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
Do you hear a ringing, roaring, clicking, or hissing sound in your ears? Do you hear this sound often or all the time? Does the sound bother you or interfere with your concentration? If you answer yes to these questions, you may have tinnitus (ti-nahy-tuhs).
Tinnitus is a symptom associated with many forms of hearing loss. It can also be a symptom of other health problems. Roughly 25 million Americans have experienced tinnitus. Some cases are so severe that it interferes with their daily activities. People with severe cases of tinnitus may find it difficult to hear, work, or even sleep.
Ringing in the Ears: Facts About Tinnitus
What are the primary causes of tinnitus?
- Hearing loss. Tinnitus can often times be found along with some degree of hearing loss.
- Loud noise. Loud noises can cause permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. Long-term exposure causes the tinnitus and hearing loss to worsen.
- Medicine. There are hundreds of medicines that are considered ototoxic. They even include aspirin, which can cause tinnitus. If you have tinnitus and take medication, ask your physician whether your medicine could be causing the tinnitus.
- Other potential causes. Allergies, tumors, problems in the heart and blood vessels, jaws, and neck can cause tinnitus.
What should I do if I have tinnitus?
The first step is to see a hearing professional for an evaluation. A careful history and audiometric testing will lead to the most likely causes and best treatment for your tinnitus. You may be referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist to complete the diagnosis.
How will hearing experts treat my tinnitus?
Although there is no cure for tinnitus, hearing professionals, scientists and doctors have discovered several treatments that may give you some relief. Not every treatment works for everyone, so you may need to try several to find the ones that help.
Treatments can include:
Hearing aids. Most people with tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss. Hearing aids create a dual benefit of enhancing hearing and masking or covering up the tinnitus. The majority of patients with tinnitus receive partial or complete relief from their tinnitus simply with the use of hearing aids.
Maskers. Tinnitus maskers are small electronic devices that look like hearing aids and are tuned to generate sound that masks or covers up the tinnitus. Many of todays advanced hearing devices have tinnitus management features built in. Devices, such as fans, radios and sound generators can be used as tinnitus maskers to help tinnitus sufferers to fall asleep or get back to sleep.
Medicine or drug therapy. Some tinnitus sufferers develop anxiety and other strong emotional responses to their tinnitus. Certain medicines may provide relief from these emotional reactions and provide some relief from the tinnitus. Other medicines and nutritional supplements have provided relief in some patients.
Neuromonics Tinnitus Therapy. This treatment uses a combination of testing, counseling and specialized masking to help you to effectively manage and gradually reduce your response to the tinnitus. This treatment can take six months or more to complete but has the highest rate of success.
Counseling. People with tinnitus may experience anxiety, depression and other psychiatric problems. You may be referred to a psychiatrist or counselor as needed.
Relaxing. Learning how to relax is very helpful if the noise in your ears frustrates you. Stress makes tinnitus seem worse. By relaxing, you have a chance to rest and better deal with the sound.
What can I do to help myself?
Each tinnitus sufferer responds differently to this annoying stimulus. Those that focus on the annoyance turn out to be the ones that suffers most severely. Those that try to ignore the sound and focus on more pleasant things tend to be the individuals who will hardly notice it over time. Many people find listening to music very helpful. Focusing on music might help you forget about your tinnitus for a while. It can also help to mask the sound. Other people like to listen to recorded nature sounds, like ocean waves, the wind, or even crickets.
Avoid anything that can make your tinnitus worse, such as smoking, alcohol and loud noise. If you are a construction worker, an airport worker, a hunter, or if you are regularly exposed to loud noise at home or at work, wear earplugs or special earmuffs to protect your hearing and keep your tinnitus from getting worse.
If it is hard for you to hear over your tinnitus, ask your friends and family to face you when they talk so you can see their faces. Seeing their expressions may help you understand them better. Ask people to speak louder, but not shout. Also, tell them they do not have to talk slowly, just more clearly.
What is the next step?
Be proactive with your tinnitus. Schedule an appointment with a hearing professional today, to evaluate and discuss your Tinnitus.
Unfortunately tinnitus will usually not go away, so it is beneficial for your long-term physical and mental health to take positive steps towards relieving your stress caused by this sometime debilitating