Turn It Off - Understanding the Noise in Our Head
November 21, 2022
Tinnitus is a condition characterized by an incessant ringing or buzzing or other noise in the ears or head. It can range from being a mild nuisance to severely disabling, affecting up to 15 percent of adults. Tinnitus can be caused by many factors, including age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noises, head trauma, certain medications, health conditions, and even stress. While there is no definitive cure for tinnitus, there are many ways to cope with the condition and minimize its effects. If you are affected by tinnitus, read on for information about the causes of tinnitus, potential remedies, and coping strategies.
According to the American Tinnitus Association, more than 25 million American adults experience tinnitus. Therefore, tinnitus is one of the most common health conditions. Despite the frequent occurrence, tinnitus tends to have a long-lasting effect on the emotional well-being of those impacted.
Tinnitus may be in one ear, or both ears. The sound may be constant or intermittent. This noise does NOT come from external sources but rather emanates from within the head.
There are 2 types of tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus is in which only the person with tinnitus can hear. Hearing loss, auditory damage, brain injury, medications, and toxins all contribute to subjective tinnitus.
Less commonly, some experience tinnitus that is rhythmic in nature, often in time with their heartbeat. This tinnitus is coined objective tinnitus and can often be heard by physicians, audiologists, and others.
Causes of Tinnitus
The most common causes of tinnitus include age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noises, head trauma, certain medications, health conditions, and stress. Tinnitus can also be caused by Meniere's disease, a disorder of the inner ear that can lead to vertigo, tinnitus, and hearing loss. Other causes of tinnitus include otosclerosis (a condition that causes progressive deafness), TMJ disorders (problems with the jaw joint), and acoustic neuroma (a benign tumor on the auditory nerve).
Most people can ignore their tinnitus or the impact on their daily life may be minimal. For others, tinnitus is extremely disruptive to their daily lives. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to the dilemma, as the best way to treat tinnitus will vary depending on the underlying root cause. However, there are a few things that can be done to help lessen the effects of tinnitus on a day-to-day basis. Many people have found relief in the use of hearing aids, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), noise generators, or masking devices. Others find the most relief from stress reduction therapy, meditation, yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, and other holistic methods.
Intriguing research is being done on stem cells and regenerative medicine. There is evidence that stem cells may be able to help regenerate the auditory nerve cells that are damaged potentially leading to tinnitus. Other research at methods using sound therapy or electrical stimulation to help lessen the symptoms of tinnitus. Lastly, there is also promising research on dietary supplements and herbal supplements that may improve tinnitus such as zinc, B Vitamins, melatonin, and lavender oil.
Tinnitus is a condition that affects many people, and there is still much to be learned about it. While there are several treatments that can help lessen the symptoms, there is no cure for tinnitus. However, there is ongoing research into potential cures for tinnitus. If tinnitus is bothersome, please see your healthcare provider. You should see your healthcare provider for tinnitus if it occurs after an upper respiratory infection (with no improvement after a week), if accompanied by pain or dizziness, if the occurrence begins suddenly or changes in intensity or pitch dramatically. Most importantly, if you are experiencing anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts due to tinnitus, see a health professional.