Tinnitus overview

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a disorder in which individuals hear to noises, hisses, or hums that have no outside source. This is often heard as a "ringing in the ears" that can be low or high pitched. The persistent background noise produced by the condition, particularly when people need low-noise environments to relax or sleep, is likely to cause stress and anxiety.

It can happen in one or both ears intermittently or continuously and is often most noticeable in quieter listening settings. The United States Disease Control Centers reports that almost 15% of the public, more than 50 million Americans, are affected by tinnitus.

Signs of Tinnitus

Causes of Tinnitus

Even if the noise can be heard by nobody other than the person concerned, Tinnitus is not a hallucination nor is it imaginary. However, it remains unclear how the noise develops. While there are different theories, there is yet to be a scientific consensus on the causes.

What is known is that these noises are often the symptom of an underlying problem. Tinnitus is most commonly connected to sudden or prolonged exposure to loud sounds.

It can also be associated with the use of certain medicines and the presence of chronic conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, as well as Meniere's Disease or Hyperacusis.

Triggers of tinnitus

Although underlying conditions can set the scene, there are certain factors which can trigger the effects of tinnitus:
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Stress

Stress makes tinnitus more prominent. Studies have shown that people with severe hearing loss and tinnitus are under more pressure more often than people without these conditions. Tinnitus is often related to chronic, ongoing stresses from family and work-related concerns–or due to traumatic life occurrences, such as a tragedy in the family.
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noise

The most common trigger for tinnitus is too much strain on your hearing through loud noise. Time is a powerful factor to consider: those who have been in a noisy setting regularly for years without adequate ear protection (workplace noise, traffic noise and loud music) are at significantly greater danger of tinnitus. The same goes for acoustic trauma patients.
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Stimulants

Some specialists believe the growth of tinnitus may be due to alcohol and nicotine. It was believed that caffeine was another possible trigger, but a 2014 study has shown that elevated consumption of caffeine effectively reduces the risk of tinnitus.
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Medication

Undesirable noises in the ear may also be an unwanted side effect of medication. Some pain medications, malaria remedies and certain antidepressants can also cause tinnitus symptoms.
 

Is tinnitus harmful?

There is nothing within tinnitus that will cause further harm medically. But you may still be mentally or emotionally affected by the persistent sounds. Some individuals feel that their tinnitus is infinite, it disturbs their focus during the day and makes sleeping challenging at night.

Thus, affected individuals are aware of their tinnitus on an almost daily basis. But tinnitus is not serious concern for all those who are impacted by tinnitus. Some are able to live with the condition without it severely impacting their lifestyle. We should therefore make a distinction between mild and severe tinnitus.

Can tinnitus cause hearing loss?

Tinnitus alone is not an illness in itself, but it is a symptom of hearing loss. There is a strong connection between hearing loss and tinnitus, and those with tinnitus often aren't aware that they also have a hearing loss. You should book a hearing test appointment with us if you are concerned that your tinnitus symptoms may be indicative of a hearing loss.

Tinnitus Treatment

The most common treatments to minimize the effects of tinnitus include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness, which change the individual’s perception of the tinnitus, and make it less or a burden on the mind.
  • A healthier diet can go a long way towards reducing some triggers that could aggravate tinnitus.
  • Sound therapy in the form of white noise or environment sounds can make the sounds less noticeable.
  • Retraining therapy can help individuals habituate themselves to the sounds, reducing their negative effects.

A hearing aid can be very effective in reducing the severity of tinnitus for individuals with serious tinnitus and are suffering from hearing loss. Hearing aids balance everyday sounds like conversations and music, reducing the presence of tinnitus sounds in the brain.  Some hearing aids also come with tinnitus management systems which offer a bank of built-in sound therapies.