If you’re one of the approximately 50 million Americans in Goodyear and throughout the United States who experiences a ringing noise in your ears, congratulations – you are part of a not-so-exclusive club: you are experiencing tinnitus. The bad news? You won’t get a trophy or membership plaque, and there is no cure for the noise in your ears. On the plus side, you don’t have to pay a dime to get in, and there are steps you can take to manage your tinnitus and lead a productive, quality life.
Causes of Tinnitus
To understand tinnitus, you must first know that it isn’t an actual physical condition, but rather, a symptom of another underlying condition. The list of possible causes is extensive, and includes – but is not limited to – the following:
- Hearing loss
- Meniere’s disease
- TMJ disorder
- Head/neck trauma
- Ototoxic medications
- Benign tumors
While ringing in the ears is the most commonly reported sign of tinnitus, others describe the sound as a roaring, whooshing, hissing, rustling, whistling or other noise.
Tinnitus is categorized as being either pulsatile or nonpulsatile. People with pulsatile tinnitus report hearing the sound of their own pulse. This type of tinnitus, caused by abnormal blood flow, is quite rare. Much more common is nonpulsatile tinnitus; this is a ringing in the ears that is not accompanied by any sort of pattern or rhythm.
Additionally, tinnitus is classified as either objective (meaning another person, usually a doctor, can hear the ringing) or subjective (only the patient hears the noise). The vast majority of cases of tinnitus are subjective and nonpulsatile.
Despite the lack of a cure, steps can be taken to treat your tinnitus and make it less distracting. The exact approach depends on the underlying condition responsible for your tinnitus; the solution might be as simple as removing excess earwax or switching to a different medication. Often, the cause of tinnitus cannot be determined, so a more wide-ranging approach may be needed.
Masking techniques such as white noise or suppression therapy are frequently utilized. By employing white noise – random sound signals of equal intensity across various frequencies – you can relax and drown out other sounds, such as the ringing in your ears caused by tinnitus. Specialty stores such as Brookstone sell white noise machines, but you can achieve the same effect by turning on a fan, air conditioner, or humidifier. And you’ll save quite a bit of money doing so.
Tinnitus retraining devices, which rely on patterned tones, are a newer technique that has proven beneficial to many patients. Other options include turning up your hearing aids if you wear them, trying nutritional supplements or anti-anxiety medications and establishing routine bedtime habits.
Contact your Goodyear audiologist for tips on managing your tinnitus and improving your quality of life.