At some stage in our lives, all of us are likely to experience ringing in our ears when there is no apparent source of the sound. Maybe you’ve experienced it after going to a rock concert, or a football game. Maybe you’ve experienced instant tinnitus following a sudden extreme noise, like the firing of a gun.
While most of us only experience Tinnitus a few times a year, for millions of other people tinnitus happens frequently and for some never lets up. For these people, the prolonged ‘ringing’ can cause a great deal of frustration and distress. Tinnitus sounds different for everybody, but it’s usually categorized as a high pitched ringing, whistling, humming, or buzzing.
According to an American study, almost 12 percent of men who are 65 to 74 years of age are affected by tinnitus.
Tinnitus is not a disease in itself but rather a the result of something else that is going on in the hearing system or brain.
Most commonly, tinnitus is related to hearing loss, specifically high frequency sensorineural hearing loss. Well it can be challenging to get a group of tinnitus specialized to agree on whether the ringing stems from the ears or from within the brain, current theories suggest that the area of the brain that is no longer receiving stimulation from the damaged nerves from within the ear becomes confused and develops its own noise to make up for the lack of normal sound signals. This then is interpreted as a sound, tinnitus.
This tinnitus can be made worse by anything that makes our hearing worse, such as ear infection, continued exposure to loud noise or even excess wax in the ear.
Other causes of Tinnitus include trauma to the ear resulting from:
Adverse reaction to medications, you'll be surprised just how long the list of ototoxic medications is that causes tinnitus.
Tinnitus can be a symptom of Meniere’s disease, which can also cause dizziness, nausea, and fluctuating hearing loss. Proper diagnosis and treatment of Meniere’s disease may also result in a significant reduction in tinnitus.
A rare cause is a certain type of brain tumor known as an acoustic neuroma. The tumors grow on the nerve that supplies hearing and can cause tinnitus. This type of tinnitus is usually only noticed in one ear
Pregnancy, anaemia and an overactive thyroid can cause certain types of tinnitus
Benign intracranial hypertension, an increase in the pressure of the fluid surrounding the brain
Jaw joint misalignment or muscles of the ear or throat twitching can cause a clicking type of tinnitus. Tinnitus associated with a problem in jaw alignment is often treatable. If you suspect this is a possible cause, you should consult with a dentist.
Stress and fatigue can sometimes worsen the symptoms of tinnitus, as can caffeine, smoking and alcohol.
Most cases of tinnitus should be evaluated by an Ear, Nose and throat physician to be sure that the tinnitus is not caused by another treatable problem. While research has yet to discover a cure, there are a number of treatments to help sufferers manage the condition. Generally the process begins with trying to identify the cause.
Again, most commonly tinnitus and high frequency hearing loss go hand in hand. Other than improving hearing, hearing aids have the added benefit of masking the tinnitus that is normally heard. Most people will either stop hearing their tinnitus all together or notice a drastic reduction in the volume of their tinnitus, while wearing hearing aids.
Another option to help people manage tinnitus is the use of a therapeutic noise generator, a device which looks like a hearing aid and is recommended for people with no hearing loss. It produces a blend of external sounds which stimulate fibers of the hearing nerve, helping deviate attention away from the tinnitus.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), changes the way a person perceives tinnitus; teaching ways to focus attention away from tinnitus. This therapy can be effective in helping patients alleviate the distress of their situation and adapt to living with tinnitus.
Several people living with tinnitus have reported a reduction in their tinnitus by taking Vitamin B12 and herbal remedies, such as, ginkgo biloba, but the benefits vary in success, as much as, the sound of tinnitus varies from person to person.
For more information on Tinnitus you can visit the American Tinnitus Association.