Tinnitus is a very common condition. About 30 million Americans have some form of tinnitus. This figure creeps up to over a quarter of all Americans aged 65 to 84 years. If you’ve ever wondered what this common condition is all about, then read on.
Tinnitus is the experience of hearing a sound that is not caused by any actual physical sound source. Sounds can be ringing and buzzing in one ear or both, or generally in the area of the head, but they might be variable and can be difficult to determine exactly where they are located.
For different people, the experience of tinnitus varies. The majority find that their normal everyday activities can be carried on with. However, a small proportion of tinnitus patients complain that it affects them severely. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans with the condition admit that their tinnitus is ‘disabling’ or ‘nearly disabling’.
How does tinnitus develop?
Regardless of the cause for tinnitus, we do know that in its development, the transmission of the sound signals from the ear to the part of the brain known as the auditory cortex is changed. Some parts of the auditory cortex receive a very weak signal. The brain then responds by ‘amping up’ the sound, which creates the experience of sound even when there is no sound present. Over time, this can become a consistent sound, leading to tinnitus.
What causes tinnitus?
There are many causes of tinnitus. Here are some of the commonly accepted ones:
Hearing loss: About two-thirds of people with tinnitus also experience hearing loss, so although not explicitly proven, this could be the main cause of tinnitus.
An ear or head injury: The problem stems from a damage to the neck or head for more than one out of ten people who have chronic tinnitus.
An Ear infection: Any ear infection can cause hearing blockage and thus make it more likely that tinnitus will occur.
Ear diseases: In an otherwise healthy person, there are several diseases of the ear which can cause hearing loss and thus make the appearance of tinnitus more probable.
Medications: Some medicines may cause tinnitus, whether prescribed or over the counter. Tinnitus is mentioned in approximately 200 prescription and non-conscription drugs as a potential side effect.
Stress: How you manage your tinnitus can be associated with the stress level you experience. If you have a high stress level, your tinnitus is more likely to disturb you.
What’s the link between tinnitus and hearing loss?
Sound waves, when we hear, go through the ear into the cochlea, into the inner ear of our hearing organ. The cochlea is covered by thousands of small cells called hair cells, which are turned into sound signals. These electronic signals are then sent to the ear part of the brain by the hearing nerve, which examines them and identifies them as sound.
If the ear or hearing nerve is damaged by hearing loss, the number of electrical signals which are picked up is substantially reduced. The part of the brain responsible for processing sound ‘fills in the gaps’ for the missing sound. This is how hearing loss can lead to tinnitus.
Things that can help
Are you struggling with tinnitus? Here are some ways in which you can manage your symptoms.
- Talking about it
Your friends and family not be aware of what tinnitus is and how it can affect you, so they may not be able to support you in the way that you need. Try talking to others who already have this experience, so that you may learn from how they have managed to continue living their life.
- Employing techniques for relaxation
When you first encounter tinnitus, it is quite normal to feel apprehensive about the future. With some relaxation techniques, you can lessen the experience of tinnitus. This can include your favorite hobby, meditation or even spending some time in nature.
- Using a hearing aid
You may be more conscious of tinnitus if you have hearing loss. The reason for this is you will not hear so many sounds from your surroundings that might help to disguise it. This is why hearing aids can help. They will raise the volume of environmental sounds which will lower the effect of the tinnitus. They restore what otherwise you can’t hear.
Hearing Care Centers
If you think you may have tinnitus, talk to us at Hearing Care Centers. We have various methods and technologies to help you overcome this frustration. Don’t suffer in silence! Contact our team today.