What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is most commonly referred to as "ringing in the ears". There are many different types of tinnitus, as it can vary in the way it sounds, its severity, as well as its annoyance. For example, tinnitus may sound like a ringing, chirping, buzzing, or clicking sound. It can last for a few seconds, or a few hours, or it can be constant. You are not alone! Approximately 10-15% of the population experiences tinnitus on a regular basis (ata.org). Even people with normal hearing may hear tinnitus at some point in their lives.
What causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus signifies damage to the inner ear cells or hearing nerve. It may be aggravated by many factors, including: alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, medications (such as aspirin), loud noise or music, diet (i.e. salt), and stress. Tinnitus should be thought of as a symptom, not a disease. Along with a damaged hearing system, tinnitus may be a symptom of a medical complication. Talk with your doctor if you have persistent tinnitus, if it is only in one ear, or if your tinnitus is accompanied by dizziness and/or balance issues.
Is there a cure for Tinnitus?
In some instances where the origin of tinnitus is known (i.e. dietary issues, medication side effect, etc.), proper management can help reduce or even eliminate the tinnitus. For most people, there is no known cure, but there are management or treatment options available to provide you with relief. There are some homeopathic remedies claiming to provide relief or eliminate tinnitus, but these claims have not been proven. Acupuncture has helped some individuals with tinnitus, possibly through its stress-reducing effects.
What Treatment Options are available for Tinnitus?
There are many treatment options available and each individual with tinnitus is unique. What works for one person, may or may not work for you. Sound Therapy involves introducing noise or music to change your focus from the tinnitus to something else. Many people use a fan or relaxing music to help them fall asleep at night. An ear-level device with a built-in sound generator is also available for patients with or without hearing loss. This device works as a hearing aid and tinnitus sound generator, or solely as a sound generator.
What can I do to help reduce the Tinnitus?
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for tinnitus. However, there may be some lifestyle changes you can make to help manage your tinnitus:
- Reduce sodium, caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine intake
- Keep busy but avoid stressful situations
- Avoid complete silence. Sleep with a fan or low-level TV or radio on in the background
- Wear hearing protection when around loud music or machinery
- Remain positive rather than dwell on the tinnitus. You are not alone!