What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a sound in the head that has no external source. This sound is often a ringing sensation, while it can be a whistle, chirps, hiss, shriek, roar, or even shriek for others! The noise may come from one ear or both. It can be persistent or sporadic, uniform, or rhythmic.
As one of the most common conditions in the country, tinnitus affects millions of Americans. The U.S. Disease Control Centers estimates that almost 15 percent of the general general public— about 50 million Americans — have tinnitus. About 20 million people have chronic tinnitus, while 2 million are experiencing severe symptoms that interfere with their everyday life.
What causes it?
Tinnitus may arise from the outer ear via the middle and inner ear through the hearing cortex of the brain. A common cause of tinnitus is hair cell damage in the cochlea. Such cells convert sound waves into sound signals, which then travel along the hearing nerve up to the brain. If audio paths or circuits in the brain don't get the messages they are looking for from the cochlea, the mind actually "turns up" the signal on those paths, and the electrical noise results in tinnitus.
Who is at risk of tinnitus?
While anyone can develop tinnitus at any time, there are certain groups that are more vulnerable to having the disease. Below are some of the groups at particular risk for tinnitus growth.
- Older adults: Tinnitus' main cause is hearing loss, and hearing loss is overrepresented in those over the age of 60. Seniors are, therefore, especially prone to tinnitus as they age. Research has shown that about 30% of seniors have symptoms of tinnitus.
- Former and active military personnel: Exposure to weapons, explosives, and noisy equipment poses a high risk for tinnitus for military personnel. And the ringing doesn't stop when the soldiers leave the battlefield - Tinnitus is the most common service-related disability among veterans.
- Those who work in loud environments: Those who work in agriculture, mining, manufacturing, processing, and transportation are at a particularly high risk of tinnitus.
How does it affect the people who have it?
Tinnitus can be a deteriorating condition that affects the general health and social well-being of the patient adversely. Even mild cases may interfere with work and a person's social life. Those with tinnitus often may face these issues:
- Changes in mood
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating
What can I do about tinnitus?
Although no cure of tinnitus has been found, several therapy options work to mask, distract, and teach the brain to ignore the sound.
We need to remember that tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom. Instead of merely alleviating the signs, the optimal tinnitus treatment strategy might be treating the cause itself. As hearing loss is frequently cited as a common cause of tinnitus, it makes sense to treat any hearing loss first.
Hearing aids can reduce the symptoms of tinnitus by increasing the volume of other environmental sounds, therefore reducing the influence of the tinnitus noise. Most modern hearing aids also provide tinnitus management systems. These systems feature sounds that help in masking intrusive sounds. These can also come in with smartphone apps to help you learn tinnitus management behavioral and relaxation techniques.
We also offer a variety of treatments for tinnitus, including hearing aids that use phase removal technology to reduce the effect of the offending tones.
Overall, try not to lose hope when you have tinnitus: with the right treatment and lifestyle, most people can find ways to adapt to their symptoms over time and continue to participate in all the things that they enjoy.