Often referred to as ‘ringing in the ears’, tinnitus can be many different types of sound such as hissing, chirping, or wooshing.
What these sounds all have in common is that they are only audible to the person who is suffering from tinnitus.
This is because tinnitus is a symptom of damage or dysfunction inside the hearing system. There are many possible causes, one of which is exposure to loud noise.
Tinnitus often comes together with hearing loss
More than 80% of people with tinnitus also experience some degree of hearing loss. However, many tinnitus sufferers are not aware that they have hearing loss. Fortunately, experts are able to treat both conditions using hearing aids, because hearing aids are now available that can play soothing relief sounds.
Why do we ‘invent’ noises that aren’t there?
Experts don’t know exactly what causes us to hear sound that isn’t there. Many suspect that it happens when the auditory system reacts to damage by trying to compensate for missing signals.
However, some people who experience tinnitus don’t have hearing loss. This means that there are other causes of tinnitus, in addition to it being a symptom of hearing loss.
Factors affecting tinnitus include …
Ensure auditory stimulation – Make sure you can hear well by adopting hearing aids if necessary. This can help to minimize the appearance of your tinnitus symptoms.
Get quality sleep – If you don’t get enough sleep, your blood circulation can be reduced, which affects both hearing loss and tinnitus. In addition, using an extra pillow to keep your head raised can reduce congestion, which can also aid your tinnitus.
Eat and drink healthily – Alcohol, cigarettes, coffee, and artificial sweeteners (aspertane) may all negatively contribute to hearing loss and tinnitus.
Although there is no cure for tinnitus, it pays to be aware of these factors and try to notice if they affect your tinnitus.
Importantly, how you feel has a big effect on how annoying you find tinnitus. Reducing the impact is therefore often about reducing how much you notice it.
The best first step you can take is to visit a hearing care expert.
Get effective tinnitus treatment
Beyond paying attention to the factors that affect your tinnitus, there are many treatment options too.
Some people use white noise players that sit next to their bed and play sound that has no discernible features. This background noise helps to mask the tinnitus sounds inside their head, helping distract them while they fall asleep.
Increasingly, hearing aids are incorporating such technologies. These are programmed by a hearing care expert to match your tinnitus symptoms, giving you a range of relief sounds to choose from whenever you need them.
How can I explain my tinnitus to an expert?
We know, it’s not easy to describe! But before your first visit to an expert, it might help you to think about the sounds.
- When did you start experiencing tinnitus? Did you also find hearing problems around then?
- Is the sound high- or low-pitched? Is it loud or soft?
- Does the sound change throughout the day?
- How does it vary and when?
- Does it get worse in some situations?
- Does it worsen after drinking coffee or being in a noisy environment?
- Is it in both ears?
The causes of tinnitus
The most common cause of tinnitus is damage to the sensory cells in the cochlea. This is the snail shell-like organ in the inner ear where sounds are converted into electrical signals. Damage to the hair cells here causes tinnitus and hearing loss.
However, tinnitus can also be caused by a middle ear infection, earwax build-up, inflamed blood vessels around the ear, medications and other drugs, and anxiety and stress.
Recent research suggests that the condition of having tinnitus in both ears may also have a genetic basis, especially in men.
As with hearing loss, the best way to prevent tinnitus is by wearing hearing protection whenever you are in a situation where noise could be dangerous. In addition, it’s important to move away from the noise as often as you can or for as long as you can.
You can get more information about tinnitus here.