Tinnitus is a condition affecting at least 45 million people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and it makes it quite difficult to concentrate at work, at school, and with friends and loved ones. It is a condition where there is a persistent ringing in your ears that only you can hear. Tinnitus does not only sound like ringing, however. It can produce a variety of sounds including buzzing, clicking, hissing, as well as whistling. These sounds are sometimes called “phantom sounds” and they can have a range of pitches (from low to high) occurring in one or both of your ears.
It is important to know that tinnitus is a sign of another, underlying condition of the inner, middle, or outer ear. Often, the cause of this blockage can be built up ear wax blocking the ear (this can be treated by flushing the ear with warm water). It may be that the ear has become infected, and that you should consult a health professional to determine the best treatment for you, whether that be flushing the ear and/or a course of antibiotics. Tinnitus can also be caused by sustained or sudden exposure to loud sounds, as happens after a loud concert or after working in loud workplaces. It can also be caused by injuries like head-on collisions during athletic
Seeking Treatment for Tinnitus
One-third of Americans find that their tinnitus debilitating enough to seek medical attention in the hopes of soothing their symptoms and finding relief. Indeed, while tinnitus affects the ear, it has wide-ranging effects on your overall well-being. In fact, tinnitus has been linked to insomnia and to anxiety, depression, and general irritability. There are some treatments for tinnitus, but there is unfortunately no cure. Managing tinnitus thereby requires careful consideration and dedication. It is firstly important to understand when, exactly, your tinnitus feels the most stressful. When tinnitus occurs can be unpredictable but some people find that it gets worse in the evenings, especially before sleep, when it is generally quieter and there are fewer sounds that would otherwise mask the ringing.
After you have determined when your tinnitus most affects you, you can think of the best way to manage it. One method is meditation. It may seem counterintuitive to manage tinnitus by being quiet—an activity that can feel unbearable for people with an ongoing ringing in their ears. People with tinnitus often meditate by specifically focusing on the ringing in their ears. Some forms of meditation ask you to remain focused on a single thought or sets of thoughts and spending time thinking about the sounds in your ears—what other sounds do they sound like, what is the volume and nature of the sounds—can in fact become calming and helpful for settling in one’s own body.
Hearing Aids and Sound Therapy
One of the most common treatments of the symptoms of tinnitus is sound therapy. In sound therapy, external noise such as background music or a white noise machine is used to mask the perception of tinnitus. Sound therapy only provides temporary relief, however. As the external noise is removed, the person experiencing tinnitus will again sense a ringing or another persistent and distracting sound.
Hearing aids are another treatment of tinnitus and they can provide long-lasting relief. Hearing aids amplify external sounds and the environmental sounds that a hearing aid can pick up can help redirect the listener’s attention away from the ringing of tinnitus.
Finally, another key therapy used to treat tinnitus is called tinnitus retraining therapy. Through this therapy, the auditory system is retrained to understand the sounds of tinnitus not as abnormal and distracting sounds, but as natural sounds. This therapy is conducted by a trained hearing health professional who wears a device that gives off a low-level white noise. Tinnitus retraining therapy sessions can over time help people deal effectively with their distracting symptoms. As with most health treatments, tinnitus retraining therapy really only works in proportion to how severe the condition is.
Our hearing health is deeply connected to how we feel about ourselves and our surroundings, and when something like the aggravating distractions of tinnitus are present every day, our mental health can wane. Being aware of the signs, symptoms, and management of tinnitus can go a long way in ensuring your overall hearing health, to be sure, as well as your mental health. If you’ve experienced challenges with hearing or tinnitus, contact us at Focus Hearing today.