If you’ve ever experienced a ringing noise in your ears, you’re far from alone: known as tinnitus, phantom sounds affect about one in five people in West Chester and across the country. Ringing is most common, but others report whistling, humming, roaring, whooshing, chirping, and other sounds. Understanding what causes tinnitus will help you manage your symptoms and lead a quality (and quieter!) life.
Tinnitus is a Symptom, Not a Disease
The first thing you must understand about tinnitus is that it’s a symptom and not a disease. There are many conditions that can cause tinnitus, including:
- Hearing loss
- Meniere’s disease
- TMJ disorder
- Head and neck trauma
- High blood pressure
- Ototoxic medications
- Benign tumors
Most cases of tinnitus are nonpulsatile; that is, the noise you hear is random. Occasionally, a patient will experience pulsatile tinnitus – a sound that seems to keep rhythm with their own pulse. This type is rare and is the result of abnormal blood flow.
Tinnitus is also classified as either subjective, meaning only the person experiencing it can hear the noise, or objective, in which case another individual – often a doctor or loved one – is able to make out the sound. Objective tinnitus is extremely unusual.
Frequency and intensity of tinnitus varies widely from patient to patient. For some, it’s an occasional nuisance at most, while others deal with constant noise so debilitating it seriously impacts many areas of their lives. While there is no cure for tinnitus, there are strategies for managing your symptoms and making them less unbearable.
How is Tinnitus Treated?
In a few cases, when the cause is benign – say, excess earwax – tinnitus is reversible. Sometimes switching to a different medication will do the trick, as well. But most often, there is no cure. This doesn’t mean treatment isn’t available.
Many people find relief from masking techniques, which work by focusing the brain’s attention away from the tinnitus toward another sound. White noise generators are popular; specialized machines are available for this purpose, but you can achieve the same result from turning on a fan or air conditioner. Tinnitus retraining devices work in a similar fashion but utilize patterned musical tones instead.
Other popular treatment options include counseling, meditation and relaxation exercises, diet and lifestyle modifications, and even hearing aids. Turning up the volume amplifies background sounds, drowning out the ringing in your ears.
If you are experiencing tinnitus in West Chester and looking for relief, contact your local audiologist today!