Have you ever experienced a ringing or buzzing like noise in one or both ears? Known as tinnitus, this experience involves hearing a sound when no external sound is actually present. Only you can hear this noise which is most commonly described as ringing, buzzing, clicking, or whistling like sound.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 50 million people experience some degree of tinnitus and that 20 million deal with chronic tinnitus. Tinnitus can impact hearing and communication as well as sleep and mood. Understanding why your ears are ringing and what you can do about it can support you with effectively managing and alleviating tinnitus. The following factors can be causing your ears to ring:
- Hearing Loss. Tinnitus is most commonly caused by hearing loss. It is estimated that 90% of cases of tinnitus occur with underlying hearing loss. Impacting over 48 million people, hearing loss is a medical condition that reduces capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound. Hearing loss most often occurs as a result of sensory cells in the inner ear being damaged. This prevents them from effectively processing incoming sound waves which results in the brian receiving less auditory information. Not only can this cause hearing loss but also a range of symptoms like tinnitus.
- Loud Noise Exposure. A common way that tinnitus is experienced is after a concert and being in an active and noisy environment. Exposure to loud noise can also impact the sensory cells in the inner ear. One time or consent abortion of loud noise can cause these cells to send random electrical impulses to the brain, contributing to tinnitus.
- Earwax. We are all familiar with earwax, a sticky substance produced in the ears. Earwax can accumulate in the ear canal which obstructs soundwaves from being fully absorbed. Earwax that is lodged in the ears can prevent soundwaves from reaching the inner ear where they are processed. This can contribute to hearing challenges as well as tinnitus.
- Head Injuries. Over 3 million head injuries occur annually. This type of trauma to the head can affect the auditory system which is the sensory system for hearing. Head injuries can damage sensory cells in the inner ear, impair the nerves leading to the brain, fracture bones in the middle ear etc. All of these components are integral to how sound is processed. This type of damage can produce hearing challenges as well as tinnitus.
- Inner ear disorder. There are different types of inner ear disorders which can also produce tinnitus as a symptom. This includes meniere’s disease which is caused by an accumulation of fluid in the inner ear. Excess fluid can lead to inflammation and pressure which affects sensory cells sending signals to the brain. There are no exact causes of meniere’s disease but experts suggest viral infections, allergies, autoimmune diseases, or damaged blood vessels can contribute to it.
- Medications. There are various types of medications that can trigger or worsen tinnitus. This includes over the counter pain medications like advil, motrin, and aleve as well as specific types of antibiotics, antidepressants, and chemotherapy medications. It is important to discuss any potential side effects of medications you may be taking or are prescribed with your doctor.
Tinnitus can be a one time experience, more intermittent, or chronic. It can be frustrating and difficult to navigate, impacting everyday life in a myriad of ways. Fortunately, there are ways you can intervene to effectively alleviate tinnitus adn the impact it has.
Tips to Alleviate Tinnitus
There are several ways tinnitus can be effectively managed. You can practice the following strategies to alleviate your tinnitus:
- Treat hearing loss: it is important to start by having your hearing health evaluated. Hearing tests are painless and identify any hearing loss you may be experiencing. Treating hearing loss transforms hearing health adn alleviates symptoms like tinnitus.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT): a type of sound therapy, TRT trains the brain to interpret tinnitus differently. Through deep breathing exercises and listening to low levels of white noise while experiencing tinnitus, the brain can learn to prioritize it and understand it as just background noise.
- White noise: creating ambient background noise can help distract the brain from tinnitus. You can do this by using sound machines or apps that play calming sounds.
Contact us today to learn more about tinnitus and ways you can effectively manage it!