What is Tinnitus, and How Is It Related to Hearing Loss?
Hearing constant buzzing, whistling, roaring, or hissing in your ears that no one else can hear can be maddening. Knowing that this ailment affects 15-20% of people is a comfort, but knowing the facts and what to do about the noise is even more of a relief.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is when you experience ringing or other noises in one or both of your ears. The noise you hear when you have tinnitus isn’t caused by an external sound, and other people usually can’t hear it. Tinnitus is a common problem, affecting more than 50 million people in the United States.
Symptoms and Causes of Tinnitus
The symptoms of tinnitus include a whistling, ringing, hissing, roaring, or buzzing noise in one or both ears. In most cases, the noise can only be heard by the person experiencing the noise in their ear. This is called subjective tinnitus. Occasionally, a doctor can hear the noises in the patient’s ears by using a specialized stethoscope or tympanometer. This type of tinnitus is called objective tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a symptom of more than 75% of disorders that affect our ears. Tinnitus is oftentimes the first symptom a person will experience before hearing loss begins.
Tinnitus is usually caused by an underlying issue, like age-related hearing loss, a circulatory system problem, or an injury to the ear. Other possible causes of tinnitus may include:
- Exposure to loud noises
- Temporomandibular Joint disorder (TMJ)
- Excessive earwax
- Foreign objects in the ear
The Connection between Tinnitus and Hearing Loss
As mentioned above, most people (about 90%) who suffer from tinnitus, suffer from hearing loss as well. Someone may not even notice that they are experiencing hearing loss until they experience tinnitus. Tinnitus does not cause hearing loss, it is a symptom of it.
Tinnitus usually follows a pattern of hearing loss, meaning if you have trouble hearing high frequencies, your tinnitus is usually a high-pitched ringing or hissing. If you have tinnitus in only one ear, you usually only have hearing loss in that ear.
Exposure to loud noises can temporarily cause hearing loss and/or tinnitus. Ever attended a loud concert only to get back to your car and have trouble hearing the friends who went with you? Or experience a ringing in your ears after watching a fireworks show up close? Most often a hearing loss from this type of exposure is accompanied by tinnitus.
Protection Against Tinnitus
Although some causes of tinnitus cannot be protected against, like aging or an inner ear health issue, there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from tinnitus and hearing loss.
Protect your ears — if you work in a loud environment or know that you’ll be exposed to loud noises, wear soft ear plugs, or other ear protection.
Choose a seat near the back — if you’re going to a rock concert, choose to sit further back to avoid sitting near the speakers.
Be careful with earbuds — we all like to listen to music when we’re on the go, but think about the volume you’ve got your tunes set on. Listening to blaring music for any amount of time will affect your hearing.
What Should I Do If I Have Tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be very overwhelming and can affect your quality of life, therefore seeking treatment and finding ways to cope with tinnitus is important for your overall health. Here are some options to improve your tinnitus:
Doctor visit — if your tinnitus is bothersome, see your primary physician to rule out any underlying conditions. Your doctor will discuss your health history with you as well as examine your ears and neck for possible causes of the tinnitus.
White Noise Machine — these machines produce a static sound, or natural sounds like falling rain or ocean waves and can be effective in masking tinnitus.
Hearing Aids — hearing loss may not be noticeable to you yet, but chances are if you’re experiencing tinnitus, some hearing loss is present. Beltone Tristate offers hearing aids that are customizable and can be programmed to mask the tinnitus you are experiencing, thus allowing you to enjoy the sounds of your life.
If you or a loved one experiences tinnitus, call Beltone Tristate today for a hearing test appointment!