Exploring the Ringing in Your Ears
Tinnitus is the medical term given to the ringing, popping, whistling, or buzzing sensation that occurs in the ears in the absence of any external stimuli. Even though tinnitus is not a serious medical condition in and of itself, it can be very annoying and can also be indicative of other underlying health problems.
The effect of tinnitus can be felt on either a single ear or both of them with varying intensities and frequencies on a daily basis. Due to the constant ringing sounds, you may find that your concentration and attention span may reduce and there may an increase in stress, sleep disturbance, and even anxiety.
Tinnitus is quite a common problem in the United States, affecting around 20% of the American population to varying degrees. Hearing loss is often a common reason behind tinnitus, with 80-90% of tinnitus cases resulting due to hearing loss. War veterans who have faced combat are often those who suffer from tinnitus, with 60% being affected by it.
Hearing loss as well as tinnitus is often co-morbid, where one occurs in the presence of the other. They may even occur due to the same underlying reasons, such as unsafe exposure to noise or advanced age. Hearing loss occurs due to damaged hair follicles within the inner ear, which results in disruption in the transmission of sound signals to the brain. Due to the same deterioration of hair cells within the ear, tinnitus may occur as a result of phantom sound signals being registered mistakenly by the brain.
Common and temporary causes of tinnitus are accumulation of earwax, certain types of medications, and ear infections. These causes are mostly treatable and generally result in relief from the symptoms of tinnitus.
You may not be aware of this, but not all cases of tinnitus are the same. Subjective tinnitus is what is usually referred to, when people talk about tinnitus, since it affects 99% of the people with tinnitus. This type of tinnitus results in the afflicted person being the only one who can hear the phantom ringing sounds. This type of tinnitus usually occurs with age or unsafe noise exposure.
In a rare number of cases, objective tinnitus occurs, constituting only 1% of all tinnitus cases. This type of tinnitus usually affects two or more people that are in close proximity with each other. This usually occurs in cases where there are underlying health issues involved, such as cardiovascular problems or poor blood circulation. An example for this would be at a hospital or an old age home, where people with cardiovascular disease may reside close to one another.
Various environmental and physiological factors contribute to the onset of tinnitus, ranging from earwax to Meniere’s disease. Unsafe exposure to noise is also a common reason for tinnitus, since loud noise aggravates the ear and may damage the delicate hair follicles in the ear. Other causes include physical injury to the head or neck area, tumors, and even hormonal changes, such as the ones that occur during pregnancy.
Various effective treatment methods exist to help alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus. These include cognitive behavioral therapy which utilizes relaxation techniques, sound therapy which utilizes white noise to block out tinnitus sounds, and techniques that help reprogram the brain to view the sounds of tinnitus as a normal part of life that does not cause any disturbance. Wearing hearing aids is also another effective technique that people use in order to deal with tinnitus.