Tinnitus & Hyperacusis
(Ringing in the Ears)
Almost everyone occasionally experiences a mild form of tinnitus or ringing in the ears that may last for a few seconds to several minutes at a time. So, what is tinnitus? Tinnitus is the perception of a sound that has no external source. Some of the more common sounds reported are ringing, humming, buzzing, and cricket-like. It can be constant or intermittent and is heard in one ear, both ears or in the head. Tinnitus can originate in the middle ear (behind the eardrum) or in the sensorineural auditory system.
Tinnitus is the perception of a sound that has no external source. Some of the more common sounds reported are: ringing, humming, buzzing, and cricket-like. Tinnitus becomes a problem when it becomes more constant and can interfere with the ability to concentrate of sleep.
What Causes Tinnitus?
There are many causes of tinnitus, and often the cause is unknown. Just about anything that can cause hearing loss can also cause tinnitus. The most common causes are: Noise exposure (e.g. from shooting or machines at work), head injury (e.g. from a car accident or fall), or as a side effect of medications (e.g. aspirin).
Tinnitus is almost always accompanied by hearing loss. If you have tinnitus, you should have your hearing tested by a Doctor of Audiology. Some 30 million adults suffer from persistent tinnitus (it can also affect children). For 12 million, the problem is severe enough that it impacts their everyday life. Because tinnitus can be a symptom of a more serious disorder, it is important to have an appropriate health evaluation by a qualified Doctor of Audiology.
Nearly four in ten people experience tinnitus 80% of the time during a typical day; slightly more than one in four people describe their tinnitus as loud; and about one in five describe their tinnitus as disabling or nearly disabling. Tinnitus is sometimes accompanied by hyperacusis (when moderately loud sounds are perceived as very loud).
Impacts of Tinnitus
When tinnitus first begins, most of us would be concerned and seek information. Not knowing the cause, wondering whether it is a sign of something worse, and not having control over it, could lead to distress for anyone. Discovering there is no cure can make that initial reaction even worse. But there is help.
Tinnitus can have a direct influence on: Thoughts and emotions, hearing, sleep, and concentration.
Thoughts and emotions
How do you think about your tinnitus?
Do you think it will ruin your life?
Do you think you will never be able to get to sleep?
Do you think no one else really understands tinnitus?
Do you think nothing can be done?
The way you think about your tinnitus will influence your emotional reaction to it. Thoughts like this might naturally lead to feelings of annoyance, depression, anxiety or anger. Tinnitus does not have to interfere with your enjoyment of life. There are many professionals that understand tinnitus and can help you. Several counseling-based approaches, such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Mindfulness Therapy, have been helpful to many with tinnitus. You can change the way you think about and react to your tinnitus.
Some people with tinnitus (39%) say that the sound of the tinnitus competes with or masks things they are trying to hear. Most people with tinnitus also have a hearing loss, and it is not always easy to tell whether hearing difficulties are due to the hearing loss or to the tinnitus. I believe that tinnitus can interfere with hearing in some people. Often a patient will report that their tinnitus makes it difficult for them to hear a phone or a bird, that they have to listen through their tinnitus, or that they have to hear people talking above the noise of their tinnitus. There are many things you can do to improve your listening strategies, and hearing aids often improve hearing and tinnitus!
It should be easy for everyone to appreciate lying in bed at night, in a quiet room, thinking about the day. But there is a constant ringing in the background. Many tinnitus sufferers (20%) report that when they are in their quiet bedroom, their tinnitus interferes with them getting to sleep. It can also make it more difficult to get back to sleep when we wake up in the middle of the night. Some even report that their tinnitus is worse after waking up in the morning, or even after a brief afternoon nap. There are many things you can do to nurture your sleep experience, and most individuals with tinnitus benefit from sound therapy while falling asleep.
Some types of tinnitus can be quite distracting. A number of people (26%) with tinnitus report that they have difficulty focusing on a task because of their tinnitus. This might include reading a book or the newspaper. There are many opportunities to improve your concentration habits.
Effects on the activities of our lives
These direct effects on our thoughts and emotions, hearing, sleep and concentration can lead to secondary problems in the activities of our daily lives In particular, problems in any of these areas can lead to difficulties at work, socialization with family or friends, and enjoying leisure activities.Often people with tinnitus are surprised to learn that many of their friends have tinnitus. Most have learned to make their tinnitus less important in their lives. You can too!
There are many things you can do to help with your tinnitus. First, it is important to understand and accept, that, at least presently, there is no cure. There is no pill or surgery that has been shown to eliminate tinnitus in replicated scientific studies with adequate control and good measurement tools. Counseling and sound therapy, including the use of hearing aids, can be very helpful. There are many things that you can do to help yourself.
What can be done?
The first step is calling our office to schedule a tinnitus evaluation with one of our Doctors of Audiology. We will begin with a thorough case history and review of symptoms. If a comprehensive evaluation is recommended, this will include a diagnostic audiological evaluation to determine if a hearing loss is present, as well as obtaining tinnitus parameters (loudness, pitch matching) and loudness discomfort levels to determine recommendations for appropriate therapy.