Ringing in the Ears

 In Tinnitus

Ringing in the Ears

There’s a ringing in the ears that no one else can hear – a buzzing, ringing or whooshing sound that won’t go away — and it is driving you crazy. Is it a disease you wonder? Or a symptom of something serious? And – will it ever go away?Most of us have experienced this condition, especially after a night enjoying the music of a favorite band or an afternoon cheering for the home team at the local stadium. If the ringing and buzzing doesn’t go away after a few days however, it’s time for a trip to your hearing healthcare professional.

Tinnitus Discomfort

Tinnitus Discomfort

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus (pronounced ti-NIGHT-us or TIN-i-tus) is the sensation of a ringing in the ears or buzzing in the ears even when there is no external sound present. You might hear the noise sporadically or constantly, and it may be loud or barely noticeable. Sometimes it’s worse — especially when there isn’t any background noise, such as when you are trying to fall asleep in a quiet room.

According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), more than 50 million people suffer from some form of tinnitus. While most people consider it a minor annoyance, more than 12 million with severe cases find it disruptive to their personal and professional relationships. Many of these individuals with chronic cases of tinnitus are veterans. In fact, tinnitus is the single largest category for disability claims in the military. Hearing loss is the second.

Tinnitus as a symptom

Most hearing health professionals believe tinnitus is a symptom of another condition or illness, such as:

  • Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL): prolonged exposure to loud noise is the most common reason for up to 90 percent of individuals diagnosed with the condition. Those who have been exposed to a single, loud noise may experience damage to the inner ear. Those who work in noisy professions, such as construction, music, or landscaping or those with loud hobbies such as hunting, motorcycling, and snowmobiling may also suffer from NIHL.
  • Presbycusis: Hearing loss that develops as part of the natural aging process is known as presbycusis. During this process, parts of the hearing nerve receptors deteriorate and tinnitus may occur.
  • Ototoxic medications.  Some medications, such as aspirin, several types of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, sedatives, anti-depressants and quinine medications can negatively affect your hearing health and cause tinnitus.
  • Meniere’s disease: This disease affects the inner ear, causing progressive deafness and, in some cases, attacks of vertigo and tinnitus.
  • Blockage of the ear such as excess earwax, infections or benign tumors
  • Head, neck or jaw problems such as head injuries or TMJ syndrome
  • Other medical problems including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, anemia and diabetes

In many cases, tinnitus is reduced when the underlying cause of the condition is treated.

Tinnitus as a disease

In other cases, tinnitus is so chronic and debilitating it can cause other health problems.  These include stress, anxiety, insomnia, depression and even thoughts of suicide. While it isn’t curable, it can be managed, even in these extreme situations.

Dr. James Henry, a research scientist at the National Center for Rehabilitative Auditory Research at the VA Medical Center in Portland, Ore. has developed five progressive treatment protocols to help veterans with chronic cases of tinnitus manage their condition. In a 2013 post published by Psychology Today, Dr. Henry describes his five-step Progressive Tinnitus Management Program. Levels one and two deal with getting patients to hearing healthcare providers and treating any detected hearing loss.  Level three focuses on showing patients how to use sound, relaxation exercises and diversion activities to manage their tinnitus. Dr. Henry said 95 percent of those attending the level three workshops succeed in managing their tinnitus.

Currently, the best treatment for chronic tinnitus when hearing loss is present is hearing aids.  (MarkeTrak VIII: The Prevalence of Tinnitus n the United States and the Self-reported Efficacy of Various Treatments-Sergei Kochkin, et al, 2011, Hearing Review).

Seek treatment

Whether you suspect the ringing in the ears is a symptom of a larger issue or something isolated, it needs to be evaluated by a hearing care professional to determine if there is something causing it and how to best treat it. The first step is to seek treatment from an ear, nose and throat (ENT) physician or hearing healthcare professional who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of tinnitus. In the meantime, avoid substances such as alcohol, smoking and drinking caffeinated beverages, which can exacerbate your condition. Get plenty of rest and relaxation. Finally, it’s also important to maintain a positive outlook. Consider looking for  a support group with people who understand what you are dealing with.

SOURCE: edited from an article by Debbie Clason, staff writer Health Hearing.com (June 1, 2017 )

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