Tinnitus, a chronic hearing condition, is often thought of as a physical health issue. However, not as many people know that ear ringing has been tied to declining mental health, too. October is Audiology Awareness Month, and is a good time to draw attention to what can be a very serious concern.
The condition is the perception of a sound that has no external source. Some of the more common sounds reported are ringing, humming, buzzing, and cricket-like chirps.
Constant ringing in the ear is a symptom, not a disease itself, so it can have a number of causes. The condition is most often caused by hearing loss, specifically damage to the inner ear. Hearing loss is often due to aging or loud noise exposure. Ringing in the ears can also be caused by thyroid problems, blood circulation problems, head or neck injuries, and some medications.
About 36 million Americans are estimated to have this condition, and more than 13 million Americans report having it without hearing loss. While most people are able to manage it or ignore it, in some cases it can become debilitating.
An estimated two million people have ear ringing so severe they have reported depression, anxiety, anger, post-traumatic stress disorder, insomnia, and even thoughts of suicide.
Many people with severe ear ringing are veterans. Traumatic brain injury and the extreme noise attributed to combat zones have been noted as causes. Other people with severe or constant ear ringing are often those with underlying psychological problems.
Insomnia and ringing in ears can feed off of each other in a vicious cycle. People who lose sleep might worry about ear ringing more and worrying about it can cause lack of sleep or restless sleep. This can affect mental health and emotional wellbeing.
While there is no cure for severe ringing in the ears, there are fortunately some treatment options. Sound therapy, such as white noise or nature sound machines, has been beneficial in alleviating ear ringing by helping sufferers to avoid silence. Hearing aids can treat the hearing loss often associated with ringing in the ears. The audiologists at CEENTA also fit devices that use built-in sound generators to provide pleasant sound to the auditory cortex that disrupts the awareness of the signal in the brain.
While dealing with the physical aspects of ear ringing is important, it is just as important to deal with the mental health side of severe ear ringing cases. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help patients deal with the emotional effects of ringing in the ears.
If you have ringing ears or mental illness, don’t feel that you’re alone or that you need to suffer. Help is available to you, and today is a good day to ask for it.
This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. To make an appointment with an audiologist, call 704-295-3300.
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