When Silence Isn’t Silent: Tinnitus Causes & Information – Get the Facts and Get Relief
DID YOU KNOW?
Descriptions of tinnitus have been around for centuries. Ancient Egyptians referred to it as the “bewitched ear” and called upon their gods to hear prayers and cure them of their symptoms.
- Fast-forward to today, almost 25 million people (1 out of 10 adults) in the U.S. experience some level of tinnitus, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
- The condition can be temporary or chronic, and mild or severe. The term “ringing in the ears” is how most who suffer from it describe their symptoms. Others use terms like roaring, clicking, and swooshing to describe the sound that pervades their days.
- Tinnitus is not a disease. It’s a symptom of some other underlying condition and can stem from a variety of causes.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Most often, tinnitus is associated with hearing loss, which can be the result of various factors including aging, noise exposure, genetics, Otosclerosis, head trauma, viral infection or disease, and ototoxic drugs that can damage the sensory cells in the inner ear (medications include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, certain antibiotics, diuretics, quinine-based medicines and some cancer drugs). Many people notice their tinnitus before they notice their hearing loss. Getting a hearing test as soon as you notice tinnitus is critical in order to understand the underlying cause and determine the appropriate steps to managing your tinnitus.
Tinnitus can also be caused by these other diseases and medical conditions:
- Metabolic Disorders: Hypothyroidism, Hyperthyroidism, Anemia
- Autoimmune Disorders: Lyme Disease, Fibromyalgia
- Blood Vessel Disorders: High Blood Pressure, Atherosclerosis
- Psychiatric Disorders: Depression, Anxiety, Stress
- Vestibular Disorders: Ménière's Disease, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
- Tumor-Related Disorders (very rare): Acoustic Neuroma, Vestibular Schwannoma, other tumorous growths
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for tinnitus, but pending the underlying condition, management that can reduce the perception of tinnitus is possible. This includes hearing aids if the underlying condition is hearing loss. Hearing aids don’t eliminate tinnitus completely, but most individuals do experience a significant reduction in their symptoms. If you are experiencing tinnitus, the best thing you can do is to get a hearing test to determine if you have hearing loss. Lucid Hearing offers free hearing tests in more than 500 hearing centers across the country. Schedule an appointment at a convenient location near you. You can even demo a pair of hearing aids on site. Your provider can talk to you about your symptoms, discuss management options, and make referrals to a specialist if required. Be sure to talk to your primary care physician about your tinnitus so they can review your medications and medical conditions.
The important thing to remember is that in almost all cases, tinnitus is not due to a serious or life-threatening condition. The main goal of managing tinnitus is to reduce the body’s negative reaction to it, which results in a reduction in the perception of tinnitus.
How Can Hearing Aids Deliver Relief?
Hearing loss occurs when the tiny hair cells in your inner ear become bent or broken. These hair cells are responsible for sending signals to your brain about the sound waves they receive, but once damaged, they are no longer able to send these signals reliably or accurately. According to the American Tinnitus Association, the exact biological process by which hearing loss is associated with tinnitus is still being investigated by researchers. However, it is known that the loss of certain sound frequencies leads to specific changes in how the brain processes sound. In short, as the brain receives less external stimuli around a specific frequency, it begins to adapt and change. Tinnitus may be the brain’s way of filling in the missing sound frequencies it no longer receives from the auditory system. Because hearing aids provide stimulation to the auditory system and the brain, the perception of tinnitus decreases. The brain has more input, so the tinnitus is less noticeable. Many people receive relief from their tinnitus while wearing their hearing aids. In fact, hearing aids have been shown in multiple studies to have a positive impact on tinnitus.
If you’re suffering from tinnitus, seek help right away. You may have hearing loss which is the most common cause of tinnitus, so scheduling a hearing test is the best first step. You can get your results immediately, and if you have a hearing loss, you can demo and purchase your hearing aids in the same visit. Don’t wait to get the relief you need. If you have a loved one with tinnitus, share this information and support their journey to hearing health!
Amy Bishop, Au.D., CCC-A, Lucid Hearing Corporate Audiologist