Do you suffer from ringing in the ears, or tinnitus? If so, you’re not alone. According to the American Tinnitus Association, as many as 50 million Americans experience tinnitus. Of these 50 million, it’s estimated that only 12 million seek help. The severity of tinnitus is variable from patient to patient, but can range from an easily ignorable nuisance to a debilitating disorder. Many tinnitus sufferers report interference with sleep, concentration, and attention to detail. Along with tinnitus, it is common that patients also suffer from hyperacusis, which is the inability to tolerate ever moderately-loud sounds.
What Can You Do to Minimize Tinnitus?
- Avoid loud noises
- Wear proper hearing protection in high noise areas
- Control stress
- Avoid fatigue
- Maintain good nutrition; certain disorders may be helped by lowering salt intake
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine
- Educate yourself about tinnitus
What Causes Tinnitus?
- Conditions of the outer ear such as ear wax (cerumen), hair, or a foreign body touching the eardrum.
- Conditions of the middle ear such as vascular abnormalities, infection, otosclerosis, muscle spasms, Eustachian tube dysfunction, and benign tumors.
- Conditions of the inner ear such as damage due to noise exposure, presbycusis (hearing loss from aging), labrynthitis (inner ear infection), and Meniere’s disease (involving hearing loss and dizziness).
- Temporary effects of high dosages of medications such as anti-inflammatories (asprin, ibuprofen, and quinine), and certain sedatives and antidepressants. There can be possible permanent effects from certain antibiotics and chemotherapeutic agents.
- Vascular disorders, acoustic tumors, head or neck aneurisms, hormonal changes, and systemic disorders such as high/low blood pressure, anemia, diabetes, thyroid dysfunction, and glucose metabolism abnormalities.
- Trauma to the head or neck, cervical (neck) problems, and temporomandibular (jaw joint) misalignment.
What Treatments are Available for Tinnitus?
Counseling should be part of any Tinnitus plan. The goal of the counseling is to give the patient all information possible about tinnitus, and to help them identify factors that may be causing/worsening it.
If hearing loss is present, hearing aids can often reduce or eliminate tinnitus when worn. This happens because the hearing aids amplify speech and ambient sound that can mask, or cover the tinnitus. They may also relieve the stress associated with the adverse impact of hearing loss on communication abilities.
The use of an externally produced sound to cover up, inhibit, or alter production of tinnitus can offer some relief for tinnitus sufferers. This sound can be produced through a hearing-aid style device to be worn on/in the ear, or from an external device that can be placed next to the bed to assist in sleeping. Some informal methods of masking include keeping a fan on to increase sound levels to mask tinnitus.
There is no single medication that works for all tinnitus patients. Some antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications address the problems associated with tinnitus. Always consult your physician concerning anything regarding medications.
If a relationship between stress and tinnitus is present, stress management strategies often help in tinnitus relief.
What Should You Do If You Have Tinnitus?
- Consult an audiologist to help evaluate tinnitus and develop your management program.
- Consult a physician, preferably an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist), to determine if your tinnitus is related to a condition that requires or is amenable to medical or surgical treatment.
- Educate yourself about the nature of tinnitus and methods of for management. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) is an excellent source for information.
To schedule a hearing appointment contact Hart Hearing Centers at (585) 266-4130.
*Information gathered from The American Academy of Audiology. More information can be found at www.audiology.org.