What Is Tinnitus

There are many different types of tinnitus. Tinnitus can vary in the way it sounds, its severity, as well as its annoyance. It is commonly referred to as “ringing in the brain.” Individuals have reported anything from intermittent episodes that are not very bothersome to a constant noise that can negatively influence one’s daily life. Tinnitus takes many different forms; for example, a ringing or chirping, whooshing, or clicking sounds. It can occur a few times a month or many times in one day. It can last for a few moments or several hours, or it can be constant without relief, even while someone is asleep. For some, tinnitus also has a pulsating or repetitive pattern.

You Are Not Alone

Tinnitus is actually heard by most people at some point in their lives, even those with normal hearing. It can be a by-product of loud noise exposure, such as a rock concert or a night out, disappearing after a few hours or sometime the morning after. It can also happen spontaneously without any reason, and then disappear as suddenly as it began. Many professionals believe this is just a function of the normal hearing system. However, when tinnitus starts to negatively affect one’s life and impact on day-to-day functioning, it is necessary to seek medical attention.

Approximately 10–15 percent of the population reports experiencing tinnitus on a regular basis. About a quarter suffer a degree of tinnitus severe enough to seek medical attention. These numbers are likely to increase since tinnitus affects about one third of the population over age 65, and in industrial countries, noise pollutants and life span are increasing.

 

What Causes Tinnitus

There are many neurophysiological theories on the causes of tinnitus and site of origin. No one theory has been definitively proven, but some have been studied more than others.

In addition to the neurophysiological factors, there can also be psychological influences that play a role in the perception of tinnitus and hyperacusis. It is important to consider both of these aspects when trying to find relief from your tinnitus.

A number of health conditions can cause or worsen tinnitus. In many cases, an exact cause is never found.

A common cause of tinnitus is inner ear hair cell damage. Tiny, delicate inner hair in your inner ear move in relation to the pressure of sound waves. This triggers inner ear hair cells to release an electrical signal through a nerve from your ear (auditory nerve) to your brain. Your brain interprets these signals as sound. If the hairs inside your inner ear are bent or broken, abnormal electrical impulses are sent to the auditory sensors in the brain, resulting in phantom auditory perceptions known as tinnitus.

Other causes of tinnitus include other ear problems, chronic health conditions, medications, TMJ, vascular differences, and injuries or conditions that affect the nerves in your ear or the hearing center in your brain.

 

What Is Hyperacusis

Hyperacusis sufferers have difficulty tolerating sounds which do not seem loud to others, such as the noise from a running faucet, riding in a car, walking on leaves, a running dishwasher or fan on the refrigerator, and the shuffling of papers. Those experiencing hyperacusis symptoms may perceive all sounds as too loud, but high frequency sounds may be particularly troublesome.

The quality of life for individuals with hyperacusis can be greatly compromised. For those with a severe intolerance to sound, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to function in an everyday environment with all its ambient noise. Hyperacusis can contribute to social isolation, phonophobia (fear of normal sounds), and depression.

Hyperacusis is often found in conjunction with tinnitus and is thus treated with a number of the same methods. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the patient’s sensitivity to sounds and thus restore the ability to participate in everyday activities without discomfort.

 

Tinnitus Treatment

In certain instances where the origin of tinnitus is known, for example, dietary habits and side effects of medication, proper management can help reduce and, sometimes, eliminate the tinnitus. However, for most tinnitus patients, there is no known cure but there are many management options available to help you understand your tinnitus better and provide relief.

There are many advertisements claiming that ginkgo biloba, vitamins, or herbs can provide relief or even eliminate tinnitus. It is important to note that there is little proof to these claims, and before trying any of them, you should consult a hearing care professional, who is trained and experienced in treating tinnitus patients.

Our team of experienced hearing care professionals can inform you about what management options are available. Because tinnitus is unique from person to person, it is important to find a management plan that is individualized for your personal needs and works best for you.

At Rocky Mountain Hearing Aid Center, we provide a variety of tinnitus treatment options, including sound therapy, ear level sound generators, hearing aids, combination devices, do-it-yourself approaches, app-based tinnitus treatment, tinnitus retraining therapy, dietary and lifestyle changes, and more. Please contact us to schedule a tinnitus consultation today!