Ringing in the ears or persistent clicking, whistling, or other noises affects as many as 1 in 5 people in the United States. You may already be familiar with the insomnia, depression, anxiety, and trouble concentrating that tinnitus can produce. But did you know that 90 percent of tinnitus sufferers also experience hearing loss? In many cases, tinnitus shows up as one of the first signs of hearing loss. Treating this underlying hearing loss is almost always a part of a successful tinnitus treatment program.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus by itself is not a disease, but is often a symptom of another underlying health condition. It’s what is called a “sensorineural reaction” – the brain’s way of indicating that there is potential damage to the ear or auditory system. Usually, it emerges as a reaction to prolonged exposure to elevated noise levels, but it could also be caused by anything from infections to medications to certain types of tumors. But how do you know if you have tinnitus?
The condition affects different people in different ways. For some, it could sound like persistent buzzing or hissing, and for others a high-pitched ringing or whistling. It can vary drastically in pitch, and is either a constant nuisance or an infrequent annoyance. Some sufferers say it feels like a persistent thumping that matches the rhythm of their heartbeat.
There are two types of tinnitus recognized by audiologists:
- Subjective tinnitus: The most common type of tinnitus – only you can hear it. It could be caused by problems in your outer, middle or inner ear, or the auditory pathways in your brain that interpret sound.
- Objective tinnitus: This is less common, and is easily heard by doctors during an auditory exam. It could be the result of a rare blood vessel problem, muscle contractions or a bone condition in the middle ear.
Treating Tinnitus: What You Should Know
- If you suffer from tinnitus, it’s critical to test for related hearing loss. Your doctor or Hearing Care Professional can also check for many common tinnitus causes such as earwax blockages or a perforated eardrum and provide information on sound therapies for tinnitus.
- Taking time to find an audiologist or hearing specialist you trust is key. It may take some time working with your Hearing Care Professional to find the precise hearing aid calibration that works best for you. This is particularly true because some tinnitus sufferers are also extremely sensitive to loud noise.
- A combination of treatments will provide your best bet for relieving your symptoms. Consider tinnitus therapy programs, along with hearing aids made for tinnitus patients.