What is Tinnitus?

March 14, 2015

In today’s blog, we are going to discuss what Tinnitus is and how to manage it. If you or someone you know is in need of audiology services for Tinnitus or other hearing related issues, contact us at 225-343-4232 to speak to one of our licensed audiologists about scheduling a hearing evaluation.

 

Tinnitus

What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the constant ringing, hissing, whistling, buzzing, humming or shrieking sound in one or both ears that is heard when no external sound is present. Temporary Tinnitus is what you may experience after going to a concert or hearing a loud noise like fireworks. Tinnitus can come and go or be constant.

That sounds like me. What do I do now?
Schedule a hearing evaluation with one of our audiologists. The testing for Tinnitus can be performed within a normal hearing evaluation. We offer remediation for Tinnitus including hearing aids and noise cancelling ear level devices.

How did I get it?
Tinnitus is not hereditary, and there are a few different ways one can develop it. Let’s go over a few of the ways you may have acquired it:

  • Impacted ear wax
  • Taking ototoxic medications (medicines that damage nerves in the ear)
  • A middle ear infection
  • Aging
  • Damage to hair cells in the ear’s cochlea
  • Habitual exposure to loud noises – This can damage or destroy hair cells (cilia) in the inner ear. Unlike a lizard’s tail, once these are damaged they cannot be renewed.
  • Head and neck trauma
  • Jaw misalignment or TMJ
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Certain disorders, such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism, Meniere’s disease, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and thoracic outlet syndrome, can have Tinnitus as a symptom. When Tinnitus is a symptom of another disorder, treating the disorder can help alleviate the Tinnitus.

It’s important to note that there isn’t a recognizable cause for most cases of Tinnitus. Often it results from changes in the brain that are still being researched.

Will I have Tinnitus forever?
If the cause of your Tinnitus is unexplained, that is a hard question to answer. If a doctor has found the cause of it, it’s possible that you could recover in 2-3 months. As always, each case is different.

Does this mean I will lose my hearing later in life?
First, understand that having Tinnitus does not mean you have lost any of your hearing. It is a symptom and not a disease – it does not cause hearing loss. However, Tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss. For example, if your Tinnitus is noise-induced, you could develop more substantial hearing loss in the future. Between 60 and 90% of Tinnitus patients have some degree of hearing loss.

Could I have done anything to prevent developing Tinnitus?
There are a few ways one can prevent Tinnitus:

  • Limit or avoid exposure to loud noises (power tools, gunshots, industrial machinery, etc.).
  • Wear protective earplugs if you have to work around loud noises. Over time, loud noise causes damage to the nerves in your ears. Investing in a quality set of earplugs (not using wadded up tissue!) can save your ears in the future!
  • Turn down the tunes. When listening to music through headphones/earbuds, don’t pump the volume up all the way. You should still be able to hear noise from your environment even with your headphones on.
  • Be good to your heart. Your cardiovascular health can be directly related with whether or not you develop Tinnitus. Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol all restrict your blood flow, including the flow to the structures of your ears. So be sure to…
    • Exercise regularly
    • Quit smoking
    • Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake
    • Maintain a healthy weight

Is there a cure?
There is currently no permanent cure for Tinnitus, but there are many ways to manage or reduce it. Your first step is to schedule a consultation with one of our licensed audiologists. From there, we can show you which treatment or therapy will be most effective for your type and level of Tinnitus.