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What Causes Tinnitus (And What Can I Do About It)?
Are you hearing sounds, even in a quiet room, with no noise sources around you? You could be hearing a symptom called tinnitus in the medical industry, but more commonly referred to as ringing in your ear. You’re not alone. As much as 20% of the population experiences tinnitus as a result of an underlying condition, whether it’s an ear injury, hearing loss, or a problem with the circulatory system.
The sounds of tinnitus
What you hear when you experience tinnitus may be uniquely individual. These phantom sounds have a range of descriptions. They can be loud or soft, in one or both ears, and they can be barely noticeable or impossible to ignore.
Most people have subjective tinnitus, phantom sounds that only they can hear, but there’s also a rare form called objective tinnitus where there’s actually a sound occurring, due to muscle contractions, bone conditions, or blood vessel problems.
Tinnitus sounds may be constant, or they may come and go. Some of the common descriptions of tinnitus sounds include:
Why tinnitus happens
Tinnitus accompanies some conditions, and it may be caused or aggravated by these. Often, though, the reason these sounds occur isn’t exactly known. Damage to the cilia, tiny hairs in your ears that move with the pressure of sound waves, can create phantom nerve impulses that your brain interprets as sound. However, some cases of tinnitus are temporary, accompanying another health issue, and phantom noises vanish when that condition clears.
The most common cause of tinnitus is prolonged exposure to loud sounds, such as music at concerts or industrial factory noise. Some people aren’t aware that even MP3 players or other personal music devices can be sufficiently loud to cause tinnitus and hearing loss.
Age-related hearing loss may be accompanied by tinnitus, which may also start from earwax blockages or changes to the bones of the middle ear. Some medications may also cause tinnitus.
How to treat tinnitus
Since tinnitus is a symptom and not a condition, it’s not treated directly in many cases. Instead, the underlying condition is addressed. This may work when you’re affected by a medication or have impacted earwax.
However, in the case of ear injury or permanent hearing loss, tinnitus may be permanent. When it occurs at low levels, you may not be bothered by it, as your brain essentially filters out the tinnitus sounds. Some people, however, hear these sounds so loudly that they can’t focus on anything except the noise. In this case, treatment may include masking techniques, such as dedicated white noise machines or devices like air conditioners that provide sounds that cover up tinnitus.
For those with both tinnitus and hearing loss, hearing aids can raise the level of ambient sounds to the point where these will mask tinnitus, and the brain re-prioritizes its focus. In some cases, tinnitus can even be treated with medications to reduce its effects.
When tinnitus begins to interfere with your daily life, you don’t need to cope on your own. Call our office or request an appointment online to arrange your consultation today.