Tinnitus: What Is That Noise In My Ears?


This common affliction, known as tinnitus, affects roughly 15% of the American population. Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound when none is actually occurring. For some it is a minor nuisance but for others, a major impediment to their quality of life.

Tinnitus is not a disease, but usually the symptom of something else. It can occur as the result of a number of health and environmental conditions. These may include hearing loss, noise exposure, head or neck trauma, high blood pressure, vascular disorders, heart conditions, ototoxic medications, benign tumors (known as acoustic neuromas) and impacted earwax. In some cases of tinnitus, the cause is never determined.  Individuals most at risk to develop tinnitus are male, persons over the age of 60, active military/veterans, persons who work in noisy environments, musicians and persons with prior behavioral issues (such as depression and anxiety).

Tinnitus is most often described as a ringing in the ears, but may also take sound like buzzing, whooshing, roaring, clicking, hissing or whistling. Some tinnitus sufferers experience severe mental and emotional distress due to the tinnitus. Side effects from the tinnitus can include fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, and memory/concentration problems.

Clinically, tinnitus is categorized as being either pulsatile or non-pulsatile. Those experiencing pulsatile tinnitus—the result of abnormal blood flow in the arteries—are able to hear the sound of their own pulse or heartbeat. This type is rare. Non-pulsatile tinnitus, (ringing in the ears that is not accompanied by any sort of rhythm) is far more common.  Most cases of tinnitus are subjective in nature; that is, only the patient can hear the sounds. In rare cases another person—usually a doctor—is able to detect the ringing or other noise (objective tinnitus).

Unfortunately, there is no cure for tinnitus itself. Unless the underlying condition responsible for symptoms is identified and can be treated, your only real course of action is learning to live with the phantom sounds. However, there are various strategies for dealing with tinnitus.  One of the most popular is white noise therapy. This principle uses random sound frequencies distributed throughout the hearing spectrum to disguise the persistent background noises. The patient learns to mask out these sounds. Electronic devices made solely for this purpose exist, though the same effect can be achieved through use of an inexpensive sound machine, an air conditioner or fan.  Since tinnitus often is a symptom of hearing loss, patients with hearing loss and tinnitus sometimes find relief by wearing hearing aids. There are also hearing aids that combine the hearing aid function with a built-in masking feature for additional relief.

Along with the above suggestions for relief, some tinnitus sufferers find relief through relaxation exercises (such as guided meditation, yoga, etc.). A healthy lifestyle with good diet and regular exercise may also offer alleviation of the tinnitus.   So if you or someone you love has tinnitus, please encourage them to call us for a complete evaluation of their ears and hearing. Call HearMD at (856) 602-4200.  Better hearing is better living – call today.

*Article adapted from Fuel Inc. tinnitus information

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