Tinnitus is a noise not originating from the environment outside the patient. Tinnitus is generally associated with hearing loss. There are as many as 50 million Americans who have tinnitus. People with severe cases of tinnitus may find it difficult to hear, work, or even sleep. The noise is commonly experienced as a buzzing or ringing in one or both ears.
Tinnitus can be a symptom of an underlying problem relating to hearing loss, circulation, noise exposure, medication, or ear injury. Unwanted noise may arise in the inner ear, the hearing nerve pathway and surrounding structures, or the brain itself. Bothersome as it may be, it usually is not a sign that something is seriously wrong. However, the effects of tinnitus can have a significant impact on quality of life. It may be associated with fatigue, stress, memory problems, irritability, sleep problems, and anxiety, to name a few. Occasionally, some forms of tinnitus can be caused by rare skull base tumors, and vascular abnormalities.
Causes of Tinnitus
- Hearing loss- Most commonly, people with tinnitus have some kind of hearing loss. It is thought that the brain replaces the hearing loss with a perception of a noise.
- Loud noise- Generally, a loud noise can cause a hearing loss, which in turn causes tinnitus.
- Medicine- The most common medicines that cause tinnitus include aspirin, ibuprofen, naprosyn, among others.
- Other health problems- Tumors, problems in the heart and blood vessels, jaws, and neck can cause tinnitus.
There is no cure for tinnitus. However, there are several treatments that may provide relief. It may be necessary to try several to find the ones that help.
- Neuromonics Device-This new device combines counseling with a music device with songs that are tailored to your hearing loss.
- Hearing aids- Most people with tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss. The better you hear other people talking or the music you like, the less you notice your tinnitus.
- Tinnitus Maskers- Maskers are small devices that use sound to make tinnitus less noticeable. Listening to static at a low volume on the radio or using bedside maskers can help. They can help you ignore your tinnitus and fall asleep. Other available products include speakers inside a pillow that can play the sound of the ocean or the rain.
- Medicine or drug therapy- Medicines are generally given to reduce the anxiety or depression associated with tinnitus.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy- This treatment uses a combination of counseling and maskers. It takes time for this treatment to work, but it can be very helpful.Counseling- Talking with a counselor or people in tinnitus support groups may be helpful.
- Relaxing- Stress makes tinnitus seem worse. By relaxing, you have a chance to rest and better deal with the sound.
Avoid anything that can make your tinnitus worse. This includes smoking, alcohol, and loud noise. If you are regularly exposed to loud noise at home or at work, wear ear plugs or special earmuffs to protect your hearing and keep your tinnitus from getting worse.
Habituation is the process by which you subconscious brain is ‘reprogrammed’ to respond appropriately to tinnitus. It generally can take anywhere from 6 to 18 months with a large amount of the work carried out in a self-paced manner.
The most important thing about dealing with tinnitus is to not think about it. The more you think about it, the more noticeable it will become and the more it will bother you. The vicious cycle will continue and can bring you to a point of disability. Many people find listening to music very helpful. Other people like to listen to recorded nature sounds, like ocean waves, the wind, or even crickets. Stay positive, and think about things that will help you cope.