It’s not uncommon to experience a ringing in your ears every now and then that seems to be coming from nowhere. Old wives tales explained it as a sign that someone was speaking of you. However, technically this ring is called tinnitus – a phantom sound which affects an estimated 50 million people in the United States. While in most cases it comes and goes, in around 20 million cases people describe tinnitus as burdensome, affecting concentration and sleep. In around 2 million cases people report tinnitus symptoms as debilitating. What causes tinnitus and how do you know if it’s happening to you?
Symptoms of Tinnitus
This may seem obvious, but to be sure, it’s ideal to monitor your symptoms. Do you hear sounds that seem to be coming from inside your head? While it’s most commonly described as a ringing in the ears, some people report all kinds of sounds including hums, buzzing, roaring, whooshing or even phantom music. The sound may come from just one ear or both and can be steady, intermittent, or pulsating. To be sure, there are websites which offer tinnitus sound samples based on what people have identified as the tinnitus they experience and it’s surprising the range of sounds!
What Causes Tinnitus
There are several causes of tinnitus. It’s important to note that while not everyone with hearing loss suffers from tinnitus, 90 percent of people who report tinnitus, also have hearing loss. This means that common risks to hearing can also be common causes of tinnitus such as exposure to loud noise, ototoxic drugs, ear infections, , high blood pressure, diabetes, and head and neck injuries.
All of these risks cause damage to the tiny hair-like cells within our inner ear which are the sole delivery system of audio information from the ears and the brain. When these cells become damaged they send a sort of feedback to the brain which is interpreted as the symptoms of tinnitus.
Why is Tinnitus a Big Deal?
It’s just a buzzing—what could be the issue?! When tinnitus comes and goes shortly after it’s not a big deal, but when it’s persistent it can become very stressful. As you settle to sleep, or attempt to focus, tinnitus appears as a distraction, keeping you up and making it difficult to concentrate during the day. The more stressed you are by the presence of tinnitus, the more likely you are to suffer more noticeable conditions. Tinnitus can cause chronic stress and insomnia releasing cortisol into the body—the stress hormone which is triggered in fight or flight situations. This type of chronic stress can build up into hypertension increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Surveying the Effects
To understand if your tinnitus is an issue which puts your health at risk there is a tinnitus impact study available. First examine how often you experience tinnitus and when it is most noticeable. At night when attempting to rest, when trying to focus or when exposed to loud music. These factors can help identify the degree of the issue and present you with possible ways to reduce symptoms.
find out more about your tinnitus, take our tinnitus impact survey.
Depending on the degree of your tinnitus, several methods may help. Many of them consist of addressing the stress which tinnitus brings. For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a kind of talk therapy which allows you to examine your response to tinnitus and modify it to reduce your stress reaction. Other people have found relief in meditation, exercise and yoga. Some people even report favorable reductions in tinnitus with regular acupuncture treatments.
Meanwhile, other people find it easier to address tinnitus by masking it. If the buzz is keeping you up when it’s time to sleep, consider investing in a white noise machine to cover the sound. Listening to music or radio can help as well. During the day, many hearing aids now offer tinnitus masking features so you can focus on the task at hand without the ring of tinnitus to distract you.
Treating Hearing Loss
If you’ve been experiencing tinnitus, it could signal a hearing loss. Often by addressing hearing loss you may reduce your stress of communication issues and tinnitus all at once. To find out more, schedule a hearing exam with us today!