Tinnitus presents itself in many different ways.
It’s most commonly described as ringing in the ears, but it can be any constant sound such as buzzing, swooshing, hissing, whistling, or clicking.
Nearly 15% of the general public suffer from tinnitus, with many experiencing it to a debilitating degree. This makes it one of the most common health conditions in the US.
But why does it occur?
In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about tinnitus, including what causes it and the interesting impact your lifestyle can have on its severity.
What causes tinnitus?
There are several theories that have been developed to explain the causes of tinnitus.
Some common misconceptions about tinnitus include: that it is psychological, it’s a disease in itself, or that everyone with tinnitus eventually goes deaf. This is simply not true.
Many of my patients are shocked to find out that tinnitus is not the disease process, but it is a symptom of something else going on in the body.
This is why it’s important to treat the underlying condition and look into all aspects of your hearing before jumping to conclusions.
One of the most common causes of tinnitus is an underlying hearing loss, which is either age-related or noise-induced hearing loss.
The most common theory used to describe this phenomenon is that when the hearing nerve is deprived of regular audio input (as in when someone loses their hearing), the brain recognizes this deprivation and inputs a sound in its place.
While there are many providers who may diagnose tinnitus and say “there is nothing you can do about it” or “learn to live with it,” this is not an acceptable response to a tinnitus diagnosis, and it should not be accepted by the patient.
The best way to treat tinnitus is by seeking help from a professional who can help to determine the origin.
At Jacobs Audiology, we will work through your lifestyle habits and rule out any physical causes.
Another cause of tinnitus could be a physical obstruction in the ear. For example, a buildup of wax, dirt, or any other unusual material can impact the pressure in your ears, which can cause a distorted sound quality such as tinnitus.
Other health issues can impact your ear health, including sinus issues, TMJ, TBI, and ototoxicity.
It’s also important to discuss with your doctor about side effects of any of the medications you are taking to see if any of them include tinnitus.
Several environmental factors can affect the impact of tinnitus on a person. Stress is the most common factor that correlates with bothersome tinnitus.
During our evaluations, one of the first questions we ask is about any new stress or anxiety that has begun recently.
Through many years of research, we know that stress and anxiety add to tinnitus, which is due to the over-activity of the limbic system. This makes it harder for a person to ignore or “get used to” their tinnitus.
Other factors, such as dehydration and lack of sleep, can also make tinnitus worse.
Getting outside and going for a walk can do wonders for your tinnitus and stress levels, allowing your ears to be exposed to a plethora of different sounds and auditory input.
The treatment for tinnitus generally depends on the physical cause of it. For example, if we discover you have a hearing loss, we will work with you to find a hearing aid that addresses both hearing loss and tinnitus.
Hearing loss is as unique as your fingerprint, and every patient is different, so it’s important to get a full evaluation before any treatment. This allows us to outline a treatment plan which is catered to your needs.
One therapy often used is sound therapy, also known as acoustic therapy, which can help to make the sound in your ear less noticeable.
Apps such as ReSound Tinnitus Relief use a combination of sounds and relaxing exercises to calm down the body and distract your brain from focusing on tinnitus.
Often, treatment for tinnitus is combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy, which works by addressing the individual’s overall response to tinnitus.
If you find that your mental health is suffering significantly from tinnitus, it is important to see a specialist who specializes in treating tinnitus patients. They are the most equipped professionals to treat this condition.
The Bottom Line
Tinnitus affects people in different ways. It may flare up at certain points in your life, making it unbearable, whereas other times, it’s barely noticeable.
Most importantly, there are ways to manage it.
Our doctors have helped hundreds of thousands of people to achieve better hearing over the past 25 years.
Using our expertise and knowledge, we promise to support you throughout your journey, ensuring you can access professional guidance 5 days of the week.
If you would like to take the first step toward tinnitus relief, then you can request a callback with one of our experts here.
Alternatively, feel free to call us at 301-860-1124 (Bowie) or 410-535-0024 (Southern Maryland).