What is Tinnitus, how it affects you, and treatments to seek
Susan, a healthy 50-year-old kindergarten teacher, began to hear the sound of a tea kettle blasting off in her ears. The sound was relentless. Susan told her doctor about it during her annual check-up. After further examination, she was diagnosed with Tinnitus.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is defined as a ringing in one or both of your ears that isn’t caused by an external source of sound. Affecting around 50 million Americans, Tinnitus is a common hearing issue.
Although known as “a ringing in the ears” there are other sounds that are associated with this condition. People can hear other phantom sounds or a variety of intertwining sounds. Other symptoms associated with Tinnitus include:
- Crickets or Cicadas
- Ocean waves
- Dial tones
Causes of Tinnitus
Tinnitus can range from extremely mild (acute) to chronic. Nearly 20 million Americans struggle daily with chronic tinnitus, hindering their ability to lead functional lives. Tinnitus is generally caused by an underlying condition. Causes for tinnitus include:
- Age-related and noise-induced hearing loss
- Blockages in the ear canal
- Head and neck injuries
- Sinus Pressure
- Rapid changes in water or air pressure
- Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Drugs (prescribed or illicit)T
Additional causes of tinnitus can include autoimmune, metabolic, blood vessel, psychiatric, tumor-related, and vestibular disorders.
How Does Tinnitus Affect You?
Depending on the severity, tinnitus can be very debilitating and can physically affect the individual in various ways. This can include:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Issues with memory
- Trouble sleeping
Whether mild or severe, tinnitus can create problems at work and with family and friends.
There is no cure for tinnitus; however, depending on the cause, tinnitus can be treated.
- Earwax removal or removal of the ear blockage
- Changing medications
- Anti-anxiety or depression medications
- Hearing aids
- Noise suppression (white noise machines and masking devices)
- Tinnitus retraining therapy
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
You can prevent tinnitus by using hearing protection, turning down the volume, taking care of your cardiovascular health, and reducing your alcohol, caffeine and nicotine consumption.
Are you like Susan?
Do you or a family member believe they may have tinnitus? A doctor can confirm if you have tinnitus by performing one of the following tests:
- Hearing exam. The test consists of transmissions of specific sounds into one ear at a time. The results are compared with results for normal hearing within your age group.
- Movement. The doctor may ask you to move your eyes, clench your jaw, or move your neck, arms, and legs.
- Imaging tests. CT or MRI scans.
- Lab tests. Blood test to check for anemia, thyroid problems, heart disease, or vitamin deficiencies.
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