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What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus, pronounced (ti-nuh-tuhs) is a common issue. Tinnitus is the perception of a phantom noise that often seems loud and annoying, but that no one else can hear. Tinnitus can should like it is ringing, roaring, buzzing, humming, clicking, or hissing. The sound can be loud or quiet, high frequency or low frequency, and can come and go or be constant. For some people, tinnitus is simply a slight annoyance, where for others it is so bothersome that it causes anxiety, depression, lack of concentration, or an inability to complete daily activities of life.
The exact cause of tinnitus is not fully understood by researchers and scientists, however, what they do know is that the ringing or buzzing is not actually a condition on its own. Instead, tinnitus is classified as a symptom of another underlying issue.
Types of Tinnitus
While tinnitus can be perceived in many different ways (ringing, buzzing, whooshing etc.) there are actually only two distinct types of tinnitus. These two types are subjective tinnitus and objective tinnitus.
Subjective tinnitus is by far and away the most common type. In fact, subjective tinnitus accounts for more than 99% of cases. Subjective tinnitus can be heard only by the person experiencing the phantom sounds. The sound cannot be heard by a doctor conducting an exam, or even any type of medical equipment.
Objective tinnitus accounts for less than 1% of all cases. With objective tinnitus, the noises can actually be heard by a doctor conducting an exam. In many instances, objective tinnitus is caused by a blood vessel problem or issue with the middle ear bone.
Causes of Tinnitus
As mentioned earlier, tinnitus is not actually a condition in and of itself. Instead, it is actually just a symptom of another underlying cause. While it is still unknown exactly what causes tinnitus, there are a number of health conditions that can trigger or worsen the issue.
Most people who experience tinnitus also have some degree of hearing loss. On the flip side, about 75-85% of people with hearing loss also experience tinnitus. Tinnitus may be connected to damage to our hair-like cells in our inner ear. These cells are responsible for transmitting sound waves into electrical signals that our brain can perceive and process as sounds. When these delicate little hair-like cells become decayed or damaged, both hearing loss and tinnitus can occur. If you experience tinnitus, it would be good practice to reach out to a hearing healthcare practitioner for a hearing evaluation.
Although earwax is an extremely healthy part of the functioning of our ear, too much of it can cause issues. When earwax creates a blockage in our ear canal, this could cause eardrum irritation and tinnitus. If you think you have earwax buildup, do not attempt to remove it on your own. Instead, reach out to a healthcare professional.
Certain diseases such as Meniere’s disease or TMJ disorders can cause tinnitus. It can also be caused by issues such eustachian tube dysfunction. Eustachian tube dysfunction occurs when the tubes in your inner ears remain expanded all the time, usually causing a feeling of fullness and/or tinnitus.
Certain medications are considered ototoxic, and can cause tinnitus or hearing loss. Some of the most common are treatments for cancer, malaria pills, or anti-depressants. If you think you have tinnitus that may be caused by your medication, please do not stop taking the medication on your own. Instead, talk to your prescribing physician about your symptoms.
Treatment for Tinnitus
At the moment, there is no singular cure for tinnitus. Instead, there are many treatment options that can make the phantom noises more bearable or less noticeable.
Many hearing aids are equipped with technology made specifically for making tinnitus less noticeable or worrisome for wearers.
Many people find noise machines very soothing, especially when attempting to sleep, m. There are even specific apps or YouTube channels that play specific “tinnitus masking music” which can make some people’s tinnitus completely unnoticeable.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
CBT is talk therapy that is very useful in helping people to better cope with their tinnitus, and equips sufferers with tools to deal with the ringing in their ears and keep it from interfering with their daily lives.