What Is Tinnitus? - Causes and Treatment

If you have been experiencing a persistent buzzing, ringing, or hissing sound in your ear, you may have tinnitus. This condition affects millions of people worldwide and, while in some cases is nothing more than a minor annoyance, it can develop into a life-limiting disorder that interferes with your sleep, ability to concentrate, daily activities, and social life. But what is tinnitus? And what are its causes and treatment?

Fortunately, tinnitus - and its symptoms - can be easily managed through ad hoc therapies such as hearing aids. In this guide by Hearbuy, we’ll look at the causes and treatment options for tinnitus, and at the strategies that can help you restore your hearing health.

What Is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a condition that causes you to perceive sounds that don’t have an external source and cannot be heard by others. This disorder affects 10-25% of the population and, while it can affect anyone at any age, it is more common among ageing adults. Although tinnitus can sometimes be temporary, it can develop into a chronic condition if you have it for three months or longer. In some cases, it gets worse over time.

In most cases, the sounds you hear - usually buzzing, hissing, or ringing noises - are mild and do not interfere with your life. However, as the disorder progresses, the sounds may become loud enough to prevent you from concentrating, falling asleep at night, or following a conversation.

Causes of Tinnitus

Although the causes of tinnitus are not fully understood, most people with this disorder also have a degree of hearing loss.

Some risk factors that may cause you to develop this condition include:

  • Exposure to sudden loud noises that may lead to noise-induced hearing loss

  • Spending time in a noisy environment, such as a loud workplace

  • Hearing loss caused by ageing, exposure to loud noises, or other medical conditions

  • Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), certain antibiotics, antidepressants, and drugs used in cancer treatment.

  • Earwax buildup and blockage of the ear canal

  • Ear infection

  • Traumatic injuries that involve the head or neck

Tinnitus may also be caused by other medical conditions and events, including Ménière’s disease, tumours, chronic conditions like diabetes, and cardiovascular problems (i.e.: high blood pressure).

Symptoms of Tinnitus

Although tinnitus is often characterised by sounds that are heard subjectively and do not derive from external causes, the symptoms of this condition may vary from one person to another. For example, in some cases, you may only hear mild phantom sounds in just one ear. In other cases, the sounds can be loud and heard in both years or in the head.

These phantom sounds can be low or high pitched and include:

  • Ringing

  • Buzzing

  • Clicking

  • Hissing

  • Squealing

  • Humming

  • Chirping

  • Roaring

These sounds may be constantly present, or they may come and go intermittently. They can be triggered by exposure to loud noises, but you can also experience phantom sounds when moving your head or neck, or touching certain areas of your body.

Treatment Options for Tinnitus

The treatment options prescribed for tinnitus depend on whether the sounds you hear are subjective - meaning that only you hear the sounds - or objective - meaning that a doctor will be able to hear the sounds using a specialised device known as a stethoscope.

Often, objective tinnitus has clear underlying causes that can be treated through an ad hoc treatment plan.

Some other options to treat tinnitus include:

  • Sound therapies that help silence tinnitus and retrain your brain to process noises

  • Sound machines that produce mild white noise to help make tinnitus less noticeable at night time or when you are in a quiet room

  • Hearing aids that help ease tinnitus and amplify external noises

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy that helps you manage your response to external stimuli, which may cause stress and aggravate tinnitus

  • Tinnitus retraining therapies to retrain your brain to cut out the phantom noises and focus on external sounds

Some medications may also help you manage the underlying causes of tinnitus, such as depression and anxiety.

Coping With Tinnitus

Besides pharmacological, behavioural, and retraining therapies, you may also leverage alternative and complementary therapies to manage the symptoms of your condition in daily life.

For example, if you have tinnitus, the phantom noises tend to become more noticeable when you are trying to fall asleep at night. In this case, practising yoga, breathwork, and meditation can help you relax and fall asleep faster.

You may also benefit from practising stress management techniques, joining support groups, and avoiding those triggers that make tinnitus worse, such as loud noises.

Consult a Specialised Audiologist Today

As seen above, tinnitus is a condition that varies in nature and intensity from one person to another. Because of this, there is no “one-size-fits-all” formula that you can leverage when looking for an adequate treatment option. Fortunately, a specialised audiologist at Hearbuy can help you find the right hearing aid and line of treatment for your needs. Take a step towards regaining your hearing health by getting in touch at 0115 965 1820 and booking your appointment today. 

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