Some people describe it as a buzzing or hissing noise in the ears. Others say it’s like a roaring or humming. No matter how it sounds, tinnitus is more than an annoyance – for many people, it can be a disabling and disruptive condition. The good news is, relief is available! But before we get to that, it’s important to understand how tinnitus works, why some people develop it, and the various treatment options available.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a condition where one perceives sound when no external noise is present. Many people call it “ringing in the ears,” but it can present as a variety of other sounds too, including hissing, buzzing, clicking, whooshing, and other noises. You can experience tinnitus in an acute (temporary) or chronic (persistent) manner.
What causes tinnitus?
For most people, tinnitus happens as a result of damage to the inner ear from things like:
- Hearing loss. Our inner ears have tiny fragile hair cells that help move sound waves along to the brain. If these hairs are damaged due to aging or repeated loud noises, tinnitus can develop.
- Ear infections. Severe ear infections or blockages can alter the pressure in the middle ear, resulting in ringing or tinnitus.
- Head and neck trauma. Head and neck injuries can affect nerve and brain functions linked to hearing, causing tinnitus.
The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) reports that over 50 million Americans experience tinnitus, with 20 million suffering chronic tinnitus – and two million have debilitating cases.
Am I at risk for developing tinnitus?
Anyone can develop tinnitus, but some people may be at a higher risk than others. If you can answer “yes” to one or more of the following questions, it might be worth scheduling a consultation with your hearing care professional:
- Are you experiencing hearing loss?
- Have you been exposed to loud noises in the past?
- Have you had an ear infection, ear surgery, or a head injury?
- Do you smoke or drink a lot of caffeine?
It’s important to have your tinnitus evaluated by a medical professional to rule out any serious medical causes. Then, you can work with your hearing care provider on next steps.
How do you treat tinnitus?
Although there is no cure for tinnitus, technology currently focuses on treating the symptoms.
A 2015 study found that hearing aids outfitted with tinnitus relief can significantly reduce symptoms in patients. By using different types of sounds to refocus the brain, patients found their symptoms alleviated or even eliminated. Here at Oticon, our Tinnitus SoundSupport™ feature allows you to manage your condition using a variety of nature sounds and broadband noise – whenever you need it, with just a few clicks.
To learn more about Tinnitus SoundSupport and Oticon hearing devices, contact a hearing care provider in your area today.