Tinnitus is the persistent impression of a sound that is not present in one’s environment. Most often these sounds are described as a “ringing in the ears,” but people also frequently describe them as hissing, whooshing, roaring, whistling, buzzing, or chirping. 50 million Americans suffer from it. That is almost one in six. Countless circumstances might cause it, but almost all of them involve some sort of injury to the auditory system.
Doctors will most often diagnose tinnitus strictly on the experience of the symptoms without needing to further investigate. But to figure out appropriate treatment a doctor will first have to determine if any underlying condition is causing the tinnitus. To do so, the doctor will need your medical history and will perform an examination. This examination will involve audiological tests, a sequence of movements, CT or MRI scans, and a drawing of blood. This helps the doctor narrow down the potential causes and tweak the treatment appropriate for your specific case. For example, troubles with the muscles in your neck, near your ears, can cause someone to hear constant clicking. If someone hears pulsing, rushing, or humming, it is likely the result of high blood pressure.
Researchers continue to make great strides toward the development of a tinnitus cure, but one does not yet exist. In the examples above, solving the problems with someone’s neck muscles or blood pressure will solve the tinnitus. But cutting the signal of the brain’s perception of the sound is not yet possible. So treatment currently aims at alleviating the symptoms and the stress and anxiety that they often provoke.
Many effective tools these days make a great difference in reducing this suffering. Trained specialists will determine the exact right combination of these tools to lessen the ceaseless perception of the sound, reducing the emotional, mental, and psychological stress of tinnitus. Taking steps to set and stick to the right course of action will spare anyone who suffers from tinnitus the risks of social isolation, depression, and cognitive impairments that can result from not seeking appropriate treatment.
Of course, no two people are identical and no two life experiences are identical. So too, no two cases of tinnitus are identical and each patient should be given specific treatment strategies in the specific ratios that will be beneficial to them. If underlying conditions are determined to be the cause, the treatment will first focus on this, for example removing impacted earwax or changing medications to one with different side effects. Surgery may be necessary. For example, if a blood vessel issue turns out to be the source of the condition. In a case like that the tinnitus would be the symptom of a deeper problem that may have otherwise gone undetected.
If one’s tinnitus is the result of noise-induced or age-related hearing loss then hearing aids will be a great benefit in improving the effects. White noise machines, loud vents, fans, or even talk radio left on quietly can all help create a static hum that masks the more irritating sound. Some masking devices worn like hearing aids are set to output frequencies that precisely counteract the troubling ringing.
Behavioral treatment also helps people come to peace with their condition and reconsider how its impact on their life. This might mean counseling or therapy to provide the necessary coping skills.
Researchers believe that eventually stimulating the brain with magnetic or electrical signals will help relieve the symptoms and that this neurological “cure” for tinnitus is close at hand. But until that technology comes into being, there is absolutely no reason to endure tinnitus without every solution available to alleviate its stress. The American Tinnitus Association (ATA) is the country’s largest non-profit resource on tinnitus information. Look into their work to learn more and connect with others to compare strategies. And make an appointment with one of our specialists today to determine what options will be most impactful for your unique case. Take back your life, your easy connection with yourself and your loved ones. Decide enough is enough and unburden yourself. As soon as you take the first steps toward healing you will be startled by the potential of your own life.