Tinnitus, also known as ringing in ears, is the perception of sound in your head with no external source. The sound comes in forms of ringing, chirping, whistling, buzzing, humming, roaring, hissing or shrieking. Developing tinnitus is common, affecting 15 to 20 percent of people worldwide, and as many as 50 to 60 million people in the United States.
Tinnitus is frequently found in people over the age of 55 and is often associated with hearing loss. However, it is rare for tinnitus to lead to serious medical issues like going deaf. Doctors find that tinnitus has different levels of severity to it. Temporary tinnitus, which comes from exposure to loud sounds and noises, typically lasts 16 to 48 hours, while extreme cases may last a week or two. However, if chronic tinnitus is developed, the ear ringing and hearing loss can last over six months. While chronic tinnitus rarely poses any serious medical threats, it can be a symptom of other issues one may have, like Meniere’s disease. Therefore, if you feel the ringing in your ears, it is important to contact your doctor for a thorough evaluation.
The causes of tinnitus are typically uncertain, but usually it’ll stem from some form of damage done to your auditory nerves. Other potential sources are jaw joint dysfunction, chronic neck muscle strains, cardiovascular disease, wax buildup, or the use of certain medications or drugs. Anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin,, aleve and ibuprofen are potential triggers, so it is crucial to be in contact with your doctor to ensure these every-day medications are safe to consume.
There are a few different coping strategies that health professionals recommend in dealing with tinnitus.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common treatment where techniques like cognitive restructuring and relaxation exercises can alter the way one reacts to their symptoms. A lot of the time, doctors recommend the use of diaries to build up their coping skills. CBT may not ultimately lower the intensity of the ringing, but it can help reduce the feeling of aggravation and improve overall quality of life.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) is a technique used for cases that occur from atypical neuronal activity. The goal of TRT is to attune one’s auditory system to the tinnitus signals to make them less noticeable. The components of TRT are sound therapy and counseling, usually done through the explaining of the auditory system and how tinnitus develops.
Sound therapy is executed using a device that is inserted in the ear and generates low-level noises and sounds that match the intensity of the patient’s tinnitus. Studies show that 80 percent of patients suffering from high-pitched tinnitus have reported that TRT has improved their symptoms.
Masking devices are another form of treatment recommended by professionals. A hearing aid is a commonly used device that generates low-level noise to reduce the ringing sound. It is important to note that the masking devices don’t have to be specialized, and at times listening to soothing music, the radio, having a fan on, or even a white noise machine can serve as an effective buffer.
Biofeedback and Stress Management are other techniques that professionals recommend for those struggling with their symptoms. Stress can make tinnitus worse, and techniques like biofeedback help promote relaxation to control stress levels.
Electrodes are attached to the patient’s skin and relays information to a device about pulse, skin temperature, and muscle tension. Using this information, patients can work on reducing stress by altering their thoughts and feelings.
Schedule a consultation with the experts at Michigan Avenue Hearing Health to properly diagnose your symptoms.