There are a lot of things to love about our corner of Louisiana, and one of them is all the sounds of nature we get to experience in our woods and on river walks. But this joy can be spoiled if we have tinnitus.
Tinnitus, pronounced tin-ny-tus or tin-u-tus, is any sound someone hears that is not actually in the environment. It can sound like ringing, whistling, buzzing, hissing, clicking, or even pulsing, and it’s either constant, or it comes and goes for various lengths of time.
One theory why it happens is that the brain is making up its own sounds to replace the sounds it can’t hear properly to interpret.
About 10% of US adults say they have experienced tinnitus at some point in the last year, but aging is the most common cause of it.
For most people, tinnitus is annoying but not disruptive, but 1% to 2% of tinnitus sufferers find it so debilitating that they can’t work or sleep well, which in turn has caused many of them to suffer from depression, anxiety, and memory problems.
Fortunately, tinnitus can be treated and managed, and here at SLENT, we have several options that might help relieve it.
First, I’d like to explain what causes tinnitus and its different types.
Causes Of Tinnitus
The two main culprits for causing tinnitus are once-off or long-term exposure to loud sounds and certain medical conditions.
1. Certain work environments
Certain work environments certainly contribute to being exposed to loud sounds on a regular basis, such as overseas assignments in the military or working in an industrial setting.
2. Health conditions
Health conditions that might cause tinnitus include disorders of the auditory system, high blood pressure, and Ménière’s disease.
Certain medications can also cause it, called ototoxic medications, and these are often used to treat more serious conditions, such as cancer, heart conditions, and kidney disease.
Types of Tinnitus
The main type of tinnitus experienced by 99% of sufferers is called subjective tinnitus, and it’s caused by problems in the auditory system from aging, nerve damage, an obstruction in the ear canal, or inflammation.
Objective tinnitus is caused by certain medical conditions to do with the heart or kidneys, head trauma, dental issues, or metabolic deficiencies.
If the sound you hear is more like pulsing, this is called pulsatile tinnitus, and it’s usually caused by the neck and brain’s blood flow or an irregularity in the brain.
Are Hearing Aids A Solution To Tinnitus?
Hearing aids are the most effective way to treat most types of tinnitus. They are set to heighten and soften all the sounds your brain is unable to process properly, so once you can hear better, the brain doesn’t react in the same way anymore by creating its own sounds.
Another feature of most of the latest hearing aids is the masking option – it delivers tones at certain frequencies to mask the sound of tinnitus and help move the wearer’s focus off it.
If additional help is needed, I also recommend cognitive behavioral therapy — a retraining of the brain to focus on other sounds — which has been very successful so far.
There is no drug available right now that removes all the sounds created by the brain.
Are ANY Hearing Aids A Solution?
When you buy hearing aids, it’s next to impossible to go it alone — trying to set them up properly and get used to them — especially if you need them to also treat your tinnitus.
In truth, you need to work with a doctor of audiology to treat your tinnitus properly. If you work with an audiologist, you will undergo specialized testing to determine the exact pitch required, perceived loudness, and how much masking noise should be used.
During this hearing assessment, we will also rule out medical pathology that could be causing the tinnitus. You can’t get this kind of medical attention online.
The First Step If You Are Struggling With Tinnitus
The first step to diagnosing and treating your tinnitus is to set up a hearing assessment with a doctor of audiology. Once we find out the cause, we can suggest treatment options.
It might be as simple as removing earwax from your ear canal, but whatever it takes, we’re here for you to help you get to the place where your tinnitus does not affect your daily life anymore.
We look forward to helping relieve your tinnitus symptoms.