What is Tinnitus?
Have you ever had a ringing in your ears or head even when the room was completely quiet? That’s a condition called tinnitus. It can be caused by problems in your outer, middle or inner ear, or in auditory nerves or pathways. Older people sometimes experience tinnitus as the first sign of hearing loss, but it can occur at any age. Tinnitus often results from a mental or physical change, such as stress, anxiety, depression, ear infection, or nasal allergies. Also, more than 200 medications are known to cause tinnitus.
Each person experiences tinnitus symptoms differently. It can start gradually or suddenly, and it may be present constantly or intermittently. The sound may range from a quiet background noise to one that’s heard over loud external noises.
Tinnitus symptoms may include any of the following:
- High-pitched whining
How is tinnitus treated?
People with tinnitus find it extremely bothersome. Treating it can include:
Hearing aids. If you have hearing loss, wearing a hearing aid will not only improve your hearing, it can distract you from the tinnitus sound. Most hearing aids today have technology that are specifically designed to support tinnitus management.
Sound enrichment. Environmental background noises like a fan, clock, radio or a noise generator let your brain focus on a different sound other than the ringing in your years.
Tabletop sound generators. These generators play pleasant sounds such as waves, waterfalls, rain, or the sounds of a summer night.
Cochlear implants. If you have tinnitus along with severe hearing loss, a cochlear implant bypasses the damaged portion of the inner ear and sends electrical signals that directly stimulate the auditory nerve.
Relaxation. Learning to relax may help tinnitus symptoms. Try meditation, a walk around the block or a hot bath.
Psychotherapy. If your tinnitus is a result of stress or anxiety, spending time with a mental health professional may help allay some of your tinnitus symptoms.
There are no medications or surgical options to treat tinnitus.