Learn more about tinnitus, a problem that affects 15 to 20% of all people, and how you can treat it to live a more comfortable and less stressful life.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the perception of ringing or other noise, like buzzing or pulsing in the ears. The CDC estimates around 50 million Americans suffer from some form of tinnitus. The auditory nerve sends a signal to the brain that there is a sound present, even though there is no actual sound. Cases range from mild to debilitating. It can be incredibly distracting and disruptive to day-to-day life and activity, causing stress, fatigue, and even anxiety.
Common causes of tinnitus:
- Hearing loss
- Prolonged exposure to loud noise
- Wax buildup
- Sinus & allergies
- Head & neck trauma
- Medical conditions that cause inflammation or circulation concerns (i.e. high blood pressure or hypothyroidism)
- TMJ issues
Do you or a loved one think you might have tinnitus? Call us today!
Two types of tinnitus:
Objective is an extremely rare form of tinnitus. In those cases, tinnitus can actually be heard by people besides the patient. This type of tinnitus is usually related to musculo-skeletal movements/reactions, such as muscle contractions, or issues related to our circulatory system, such as blood flow or blood vessel problems.
Subjective tinnitus is much more common; 99% of all tinnitus cases are subjective. This type of tinnitus cannot be observed by others or measured. While it can have a myriad of causes, the most common are related to the ear and auditory system such as noise exposure or damage to the inner ear hair cells or auditory nerve. In these cases, there is no cure for tinnitus but it can be managed and sometimes improved. In other cases, treating an underlying issue such as TMJ, ear infection, sinus/allergy problems, or wax buildup may improve or resolve subjective tinnitus.
Tell us about your tinnitus symptoms.
How is tinnitus treated?
There is no single cure for tinnitus. It’s important to speak to a physician or medical professional to rule out underlying health concerns that could be causing or contributing to your tinnitus. For the majority of those with subjective tinnitus, a combination of technological and counseling-based methods can be used to alleviate its effects.
A full hearing evaluation can detect issues that could cause tinnitus such as wax blockage, hearing loss or other auditory disorders.
Hearing aids can be used to combat tinnitus with or without the presence of a hearing loss. Many of today’s hearing devices use features to mask out and/or cancel out the distracting and anxiety-inducing sounds of tinnitus. Those features can be tailored and programmed to each specific user to try and maximize their impact on tinnitus. If a hearing loss is also present, the aids would be programmed to address the loss as well.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy
When masking or amplification is insufficient, we recommend tinnitus retraining therapy. Tinnitus retraining therapy uses sound to treat the limbic system. Instead of “masking” the sounds, this approach applies a pleasant sound (e.g. chimes or ocean waves) at the same level as the perceived tinnitus in hopes of relaxing the limbic system. This method usually means a change in lifestyle for months or even years depending on the severity of the tinnitus.
A physician can be consulted and involved in the treatment/management of tinnitus. Many medications note tinnitus as a side effect and can sometimes cause tinnitus to increase. There are currently no FDA-approved drugs specifically for tinnitus management. However, there are pharmacological options to address the stress, anxiety, and depression often caused by tinnitus.
General health and wellness are important factors in tinnitus management. Increasing activity rate (e.g. exercise) can increase blood flow, reduce circulation concerns, and increase endorphin production. All of which can reduce stress and shift focus away from tinnitus. Other techniques to reduce stress include yoga, massage, breathing techniques, meditation, and counseling.