Tinnitus, the mysterious ringing sound many people get in their ears, affects many. But what is it? This week is Tinnitus Awareness Week, and is the perfect time to learn about this condition.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is when you hear a sound that doesn’t have an external source, such as ringing, humming, buzzing, or chirps. About 30 million Americans have tinnitus. Of them, about 13 million people report no hearing loss. More than 25 percent of people between the ages of 65 and 84 have tinnitus.

Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease itself, so it can have a number of causes. Tinnitus is most often caused by hearing loss, specifically damage to the inner ear, CEENTA Audiologist Allison King, AuD, said. Hearing loss is often due to aging or loud noise exposure. Tinnitus can also be caused by thyroid problems, blood circulation problems, head or neck injuries, and some medications.

In addition to hearing loss, tinnitus can be a sign of ear-related problems such as wax buildup or ear infections, or even a benign tumor on the auditory nerve.

How do I prevent tinnitus?

The best way to prevent tinnitus is to avoid exposure to loud noises and to use protective hearing devices, such as earplugs or earmuffs.

Stress management and overall wellness measures can also reduce the factors that contribute to tinnitus, Dr. King said. Studies have shown a correlation between people’s stress levels and tinnitus. Tinnitus often worsens when people are stressed, so lowering their stress levels can also lower their tinnitus levels.

While there is no cure for tinnitus, it can be managed so it is no longer a daily problem for the patient, Dr. King said. The most common treatments include hearing aids, sound therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Sound therapy can include sound masking devices, such as white noise or nature sound machines. It can also include modified sound devices, which provide customized sounds designed around a patient’s specific case. Cognitive behavioral therapy, meanwhile, helps patients deal with the emotional effects of tinnitus, such as the frustration of dealing with the constant noise.

While tinnitus can be aggravating, understanding it can help you learn to how to treat and deal with it so it doesn’t interfere with your daily life.

This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. Dr. King practices out of our Blakeney office. To make an appointment with her or any of our audiologists or ENT doctors, call 704-295-3000.

 


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