Nearly 50 million Americans suffer from varying degrees of tinnitus according to the American Tinnitus Association. Tinnitus symptoms may include ringing in the ears or even humming, whooshing or buzzing sounds that only the individual can hear. Tinnitus can make sleeping, concentrating and hearing harder. Tinnitus is not a disease but actually a symptom of damage to the auditory system. Let’s look at what causes tinnitus.
The most common causes of tinnitus are actually due to age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss. Age-related hearing loss is the natural deterioration that happens to our auditory system as we age and also explains why tinnitus commonly happens later in life. Noise-induced hearing loss, on the other hand, is due to damage overtime from exposure to loud sounds. This damage can occur at any age depending on noise exposure. Other causes of tinnitus can be temporary such as excessive ear wax, head congestion, loose hair from the ear canal or dirt or foreign objects in the ear. Some medical conditions can also cause tinnitus symptoms. Working with a hearing care professional is the best way to determine the tinnitus cause and treatment.
There is no pill or set therapy to treat tinnitus symptoms. In fact, as our audiologist Dr. Greg King points out in a recent article, because the causes of tinnitus or so varied and doctors are still conducting research, there is no one set treatment plan. The good news is that there are treatments that are proving successful for many patients, including cognitive therapy, acupuncture and advances in hearing aid technology. Our audiologists have found the most success from using hearing aid technology to mask the buzzing or ringing caused by tinnitus. Think of the hearing devices as a pair of eye glasses – they are worn to change how sound is experienced so you can better focus on the sounds you want to hear such as the conversation with a friend or music at a concert hall.
If you are experiencing tinnitus symptoms, contact us to speak to a hearing care professional.