What’s that ringing in my ears? Many people experience tinnitus as a ringing sound in their head or ears, but tinnitus can take many forms. Some people experience it as a buzzing, humming or whistling sound, and some say it sounds like the roaring of the ocean. It can be intermittent or constant, in one ear or both ears. For the majority of people, tinnitus is a subjective sound that only they can hear. The sound can be soft or loud, and the onset may be sudden or gradual. An estimated 50 million Americans experience some degree of tinnitus in their lifetime.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease. There are many possible causes including exposure to loud sounds, reaction to medication, earwax blockage, and the aging process. But, some people develop tinnitus for no obvious reason.
What Does Tinnitus Have To Do With Hearing Loss?
Tinnitus and hearing loss often exist together. Approximately 90% of people who suffer from tinnitus also experience some degree of hearing loss. Some people with tinnitus may think their hearing difficulty is caused by the tinnitus, but in fact it can be due to the hearing loss. The hearing loss is often caused by damaged hair cells in the inner ear.
Hearing aids are often helpful for many people who have tinnitus. The better you hear, the less you may notice your tinnitus. With hearing aids, your brain has other sounds to listen to, making the tinnitus less noticeable.
How Is Tinnitus Affecting My Life?
Whatever its cause, tinnitus can have a significant impact on day to day activities. Some people who experience tinnitus can ignore it most of the time and not allow it to disrupt their daily activities. For others, tinnitus symptoms can worsen to the point that getting a full night’s sleep is not possible. In turn, a poor night’s sleep affects you negatively the next day and a vicious cycle may begin. Seeking help with your tinnitus when symptoms occur is important for your overall health.
Because of your tinnitus, is it difficult for you to concentrate? Because of your tinnitus, do you have trouble falling asleep at night? Because of your tinnitus, do you feel frustrated? Does your tinnitus make it difficult to enjoy life? If you answered yes to just one of these questions, a hearing evaluation is recommended. A hearing evaluation is the first step in determining the possible cause of the tinnitus, as well as an appropriate treatment plan.