All About Tinnitus

July 17, 2020

All About Tinnitus
Dr. Darcy Benson
Latest posts by Dr. Darcy Benson (see all)

Have you ever heard a ringing in your ears after attending a noisy concert? That sound is what we call tinnitus. 

Tinnitus is often defined as a ringing sound in the ears, but it is possible to find other types. For example, it can seem to come from one ear, both ears or in the head. It may sound like a variety of different sounds, not just ringing. 

That noise in quiet times is something that nobody else can detect. Tinnitus can last for just one night and then disappear, but it may never completely go away for some. It may happen at any age, but it is more common for people over the age of 65 and may develop suddenly or progress slowly over time.


What kinds of tinnitus exist?

Two principal types of tinnitus exist. 

The first, subjective tinnitus, is a sound that can only be heard by the individual it experiences. It tends to be caused by a problem, also known as the auditory nervous system, along the pathway between the ear and brain. 

The second type, objective tinnitus, is quite rare. This form is triggered by a sound inside the body that a doctor with the right equipment can hear. 

Let’s take a moment to consider the causes and treatments available for tinnitus.


Causes of tinnitus

Most tinnitus occurs when the inner ear’s tiny hair-like cells are damaged. When these hair cells function as intended, they send electrical impulses to the brain, which differ depending on the type of sound they have detected. With a remarkable degree of precision, these fragile cells can detect subtle differences in tone. However, if bent or split, these hair-like cells can sometimes send along an electrical disturbance that registers as sound. 

There are many reasons why these cells could be bent or broken. Age-related hearing loss and loud noise exposure are the most common causes of this type of damage leading to tinnitus. 

Although your mind may immediately go to the loud sounds associated with an explosion, car crash, or industrial machines, you may be surprised at some of the other tinnitus-causing sounds. The volume of noise from your earbuds or headphones can be enough to cause that hearing damage. Even though exposure to loud noise from a concert, sporting event, or dance club typically only causes acute ringing in the ears, permanent damage may also occur. 

As well as the common causes of tinnitus, more rare causes of tinnitus can result from an earwax buildup, Meniere ‘s disease, TMJ, injuries, muscle spasms, and even changes in bone structure.


Preventing tinnitus

As mentioned, tinnitus often comes from exposure to loud sounds. That’s why it is crucial to wear hearing protection whenever exposed to loud noises to avoid this type of tinnitus. 

Those whose workplaces expose them to noise should consult their management about what can be done to limit exposure, but they should also be sure to wear the hearing protection that is provided and required by law. 

Another crucial preventive measure is to limit headphone use and volume, including earbuds. Through using these devices loud volumes, even very young people can damage their ears, so make sure they keep the time with headphones to a limited time each day.


Treatments for tinnitus

At the moment, there is no way to cure tinnitus medically. But many treatment options can make the noises less noticeable.

Sound Therapy: Many people find noise machines very calming, particularly when getting to sleep. There are even different smartphone apps or online videos that play specific “tinnitus masking music,” making tinnitus entirely unnoticeable.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy ( CBT): Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a kind of talk therapy that is very useful to help people cope better with their tinnitus. It equips patients with mental tools to handle the ringing in their ears and prevent it from interfering with their everyday lives.

Hearing aids for tinnitus: Many hearing aids increase the user’s overall ‘sound level’ experience, which could help them ignore their tinnitus sounds better. Modern hearing aids may help to alleviate tinnitus by producing a sound that hides the tinnitus in question.

Although hearing aids are usually not recommended in cases involving tinnitus with no hearing loss, considering that the two conditions are often related, it is advisable to check your hearing if you experience tinnitus. The test is painless and straightforward, and it is best to learn early on that you have a degree of hearing loss, so you can make lifestyle changes and schedule routine additional hearing tests to keep track of your hearing.

If you have a life-altering degree of hearing loss, wearing hearing aids should begin as soon as possible. The adverse effects of untreated hearing loss are numerous and profound. Schedule an appointment with us today to set up a hearing test.