No one wants to live with a noise in the background they can never get rid of, commonly known as tinnitus. For many people, tinnitus comes on without an obvious cause. It can happen at any age, seemingly at any time. For some people, tinnitus is intermittent. For others it is continuous.
The first thing people need to do when experiencing tinnitus is to see an audiologist. Tinnitus is not a condition, it’s a symptom. Treating tinnitus is not usually as simple as prescribing medication or performing surgery. The only way to stop tinnitus is to treat the condition causing it. However, symptoms can be eliviated and controlled with proper guidance from an audiologist. Below is what you need to know about tinnitus treatment, conditions that cause tinnitus, and what you can do to avoid this condition.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is characterized by a persistent noise that a person can “hear” but this noise is not actually coming from the person’s environment around them. This noise is usually sound that only the sufferer can hear. This noise may sound like whining, hissing, whooshing or clicking. It can be debilitatingly loud or so soft it is almost unnoticeable.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Many things can cause tinnitus, including ear infections, blockages, hearing loss, neck injuries, head injuries, Eustachian tube dysfunction, and muscle spasms in the ear. Sometimes, tinnitus occurs because the hair cells in the inner ear have been broken or damaged. Other times, tinnitus is caused from disruptions, which damage the auditory processing pathways in the brain. Overall, the cause of tinnitus is not clear.
Is There A Cure?
Tinnitus can sometimes be cured depending on the origin of trauma. For example, some types of medication can cause tinnitus symptoms. Should your audiologist determine that your tinnitus is caused by medication, your audiologist will likely recommend that you discuss this with your prescribing physician to review alternative treatments where tinnitus is not a side effect. If tinnitus occurs as the result of a neck injury, it may go away when the neck injury has healed.
Sometimes tinnitus occurs because of a condition or injury that is permanent. When this is the case, doctors focus on minimizing the tinnitus symptoms to better your overall quality of life.
What Can My Audiologist Do To Treat Tinnitus?
To treat tinnitus, the audiologist will first perform an evaluation to determine the cause. They will want to know when you started to experience symptoms, whether the noise is in one ear or both and what the noise sounds like. They will want to know if the sound is continuous and what makes the symptoms seem better or worse. Also, they will ask about medications you are taking, injuries you have had, and your overall medical history. Then the audiologist will complete your hearing evaluation to determine your overall auditory health.
Your audiologist will subject you to a hearing exam and ask you to perform various movements to identify any underlying disorders. They may also perform image tests, like a CT or MRI scan .
The types of sounds you hear may provide clues to the cause of your tinnitus. Clicking noises can be caused by muscle contractions, while whooshing noises are usually caused by blood rushing through blood vessels. High blood pressure or even a tumor can amplify the sound of your own heartbeat in your ears. A blow to the ear can cause a high pitched ringing noise.
Treatment for tinnitus varies depending on the cause. Some things your hearing expert might try include:
- Medication switch. Are you taking a medication known to cause tinnitus? If so, our hearing experts will recommend you discuss substitutions with your primary care physician.
- Blood pressure medication. If high blood pressure is causing or exacerbating your tinnitus, your physician may prescribe blood pressure medication to help.
- Vascular condition treatment. Tinnitus can be caused by vascular conditions, like malformations of capillaries, arterial narrowing and kinking. A physician can help you with these conditions by prescribing medication or surgery.
Learning How To Successfully Live With Tinnitus
Sometimes, medical professionals are unable to find the cause of tinnitus. Other times, they are able to find the cause, but do not have a viable solution. If this happens to you, our audiologist will help you find coping mechanisms to make tinnitus a less disruptive part of your life.
Sound therapy can help you learn to ignore the symptoms of constant sounds. Sound therapy can cut back on frustration and restore your quality of life. Sound therapy does not eliminate the sound you hear, but makes it easier to ignore. After effective sound therapy, your tinnitus might seem softer, even if the noise itself is unchanged.
Behavioral therapy is helpful if you are suffering from depression, anxiety, anger, frustration and despair as a result of your condition. A good therapist can help you learn to overcome the frustration, breathe through the anger and develop other healthy coping mechanisms and strategies. Support groups are also helpful. In a support group, you will learn coping mechanisms that work for others. You will also get a chance to express feelings of frustration to an understanding audience. If you are suffering from mental or emotional pain as a result of your tinnitus, a doctor may also prescribe medication for anxiety or depression. If the tinnitus is disrupting your sleep, your physician may also temporarily prescribe a sleeping aid.
When experiencing tinnitus as a result of hearing loss, hearing aids can amplify sounds from the environment to a noise level that is louder than the tinnitus, thus aiding normal conversation.
Tinnitus does not have to stop you from enjoying life. Making small lifestyle changes can help you resume normal life and regulate your emotions. Staying away from triggers or irritants, like loud noises or caffeine, can help you feel better and get beyond the noise you hear. You may even find that using a white noise maker or playing soft music in the background can help you feel relaxed and calm.
Tinnitus and hearing loss go hand in hand. Protecting your hearing helps avoid problems like tinnitus. Our audiologist recommend wearing ear protection in loud environments, like on a job site. Also, to have your hearing tested regularly, especially if you have displayed the symptoms of hearing loss. Avoid listening to loud music in your ear buds.
If you do suffer from tinnitus, seek help from a audiologist right away. Catching tinnitus (and its’ cause) in its’ earliest stages can prevent permanent damage.