A person with tinnitus often hears a “ringing in the ears,” but they may also hear hissing, clicking, or hissing. Tinnitus can be temporary or chronic and persistent. They usually occur after the age of 50, but children and adolescents can also suffer from them. Common causes are excessive or cumulative noise exposure, head and neck injuries, and ear infections. Tinnitus can sometimes be a sign of a serious underlying medical problem.
Tinnitus is incurable, but there are ways to manage it. Most people with chronic tinnitus get used to the extraneous sound over time, but one in five find it disturbing or debilitating. For some, they can lead to insomnia, difficulty concentrating, poor performance at work or school, irritability, anxiety and depression.
Some facts about tinnitus
Here are some key points about tinnitus.
– Most tinnitus is caused by damage to the cochlea, or inner ear.
– Some drugs can cause or worsen tinnitus, eg aspirin, especially in high doses.
– People with tinnitus may be overly sensitive to loud noises.
– Most people learn to live with tinnitus, but help is available for those who find it difficult.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus refers to a buzzing, ringing or other sound in the ears. Tinnitus occurs when we consciously hear sound that does not come from any source outside the body. It is not a disease, but a symptom of an underlying problem. The most common form is a regular, high-pitched sound. It can be bothersome, but it’s usually not a sign of a serious condition. In less than 1% of cases, it can be objective. This means that other people can hear the noise. This type of noise can be caused by cardiovascular or musculoskeletal movements of the person’s body. It may be a sign of a medical emergency.
Tinnitus is non-auditory internal sound that can be intermittent or continuous, in one or both ears, and of low or high intensity. The different sounds are described as hissing, chirping, clicking, screeching, whistling, static, roaring, buzzing, pulsing, hissing, or musical sounds. Sound volume may fluctuate. It is often more noticeable at night or during quiet periods. There may be hearing loss.
The first step is to treat any underlying cause of tinnitus.
It may involve
– the rapid treatment of an ear infection
– stopping ototoxic drugs
– the treatment of any temporomandibular joint (TMJ) problem, which affects the joint between the jaw bone and the cheek bone.
There is no cure for most cases of tinnitus. Most people get used to them and learn how to make them go away. Ignoring it rather than focusing on it can bring relief.
When this does not work, one can benefit from treatment for the effects of tinnitus, insomnia, anxiety, hearing difficulties, social isolation and depression. Addressing these issues can significantly improve a person’s quality of life.
Home solutions to relieve tinnitus
Here are some other things you can do to manage tinnitus and its effects.
- Sound therapy uses external noise to mask the person’s perception of tinnitus. Low-level background music, white noise, or specialized ear masks can be helpful. The choice of sound should be pleasant for the person. Masking devices provide temporary relief, and tinnitus awareness returns when the sound therapy is turned off. Hearing aids are a common type of sound therapy. They amplify the sounds of the environment and redirect the attention to these noises rather than to the tinnitus.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) involves retraining the auditory system to accept the abnormal sounds of tinnitus as natural rather than disruptive. It involves the help of a trained professional and the wearing of a device that emits low-intensity white noise. Ongoing counseling sessions can help people cope with tinnitus.
The success of this therapy is proportional to the severity of the tinnitus and the person’s overall mental health. Follow-up studies suggest that TRT relieves about 80% of people with tinnitus.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may help relieve depression in people with tinnitus, although it does not appear to reduce sound.
A healthy lifestyle to soothe tinnitus
One way to prevent tinnitus, and possibly hearing loss, is to avoid exposure to loud noises.
To prevent hearing damage from developing or getting worse:
– use hearing protection, such as mufflers and earplugs, in noisy environments
– use personal listening devices at a moderate volume
– Improving well-being will not end tinnitus, but overall well-being can help limit its intensity and bring physical and emotional benefits.
Exercise, healthy eating, good sleep habits, avoidance of smoking and alcohol abuse, recreational and social activities, as well as stress management and relaxation techniques can contribute to well-being. be optimal.
Unfortunately, once the damage is done, there is no way to reverse it.
Anyone with tinnitus should see a doctor for examination and evaluation to determine the underlying cause. A medical evaluation can rule out any rare but life-threatening cause of tinnitus. It may be necessary to consult an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist).
The questions the doctor may ask are:
How or when did it start?
– Are the noises constant, intermittent or pulsating?
– Is there any hearing loss or dizziness?
– Is there pain or clicking in the jaw?
– Have you had a recent illness or injury?
– Have you been exposed to loud noise, such as a rock concert or explosives?
Tests may include:
– A complete examination of the ear, head, neck and torso.
– hearing tests
– laboratory blood tests
– imaging tests
Common causes of tinnitus
The most common cause of tinnitus is the deterioration and loss of tiny sensory hair cells in the cochlea of the inner ear. This phenomenon tends to occur with age, but it can also result from prolonged exposure to excessively loud noise. Hearing loss can coincide with tinnitus. Research suggests that the sensory loss of certain sound frequencies leads to changes in the way the brain processes sounds.
When the brain receives fewer external stimuli around a specific frequency, it begins to adapt and change. Tinnitus may be the brain’s way of filling in missing sound frequencies that it no longer receives from its own auditory system. Certain medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, certain antibiotics and diuretics can be “ototoxic”. They cause damage to the inner ear, resulting in tinnitus.
Other possible causes are:
– head and neck injuries
– ear infections
– a foreign body or earwax touching the eardrum
– Eustachian tube problems (middle ear)
– disorders of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ)
– stiffness of the middle ear bones
– traumatic brain injury
– cardiovascular illnesses
If a foreign object or earwax is causing the tinnitus, removing the object or earwax often makes the tinnitus go away. Tinnitus that sounds like a heartbeat can be more severe. It may be due to an abnormal growth in the ear area, such as a tumor or an abnormal connection between a vein and an artery. It requires a medical evaluation as soon as possible.
Teenagers, loud music and possible future hearing problems
One study found that out of 170 teenagers, more than half had experienced tinnitus in the past year. Research has proposed that “potentially risky leisure habits”, such as listening to loud music on personal devices, may trigger tinnitus.
However, the researchers found that people prone to tinnitus tended to lower the volume of their music, suggesting that they may already have a hidden susceptibility to hearing loss in the future. They suggest monitoring for tinnitus and a low tolerance for loud noises from an early age, as they could be early warning signs of future hearing loss.
Tinnitus risk factors
Tinnitus is a common problem in the general population, especially in people with certain risk factors.
– exposure to noise at work, from headphones, at concerts, from explosives, etc.
– gender, men being more affected than women
– hearing loss
– age, the elderly being more sensitive
Crummer, RW, & Hassan, GA (2004, January). Diagnostic approach to tinnitus [Abstract]. American Family Physician 69(1),120-6
Henry, JA, Roberts, LE, Caspary, DM, Theodoroff, SM, Salvi, RJ (2014). Underlying Mechanisms of Tinnitus: Review and Clinical Implications [Abstract]. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology 25(1), 5-126
Hobson, J., Chisholm, E., El Refaie, A. (2012, November 14). Sound therapy (masking) in the management of tinnitus in adults [Abstract]. Cochrane Database Systematic Review(11), CD006371
Jastreboff, PL & Jastreboff, MM (2000, October 23). Tinnitus retraining therapy: an update
Langguth, B., Salvi, R., & Elgoyhen, AB (2010, December 1). Emerging pharmacotherapy of tinnitus. Expert Opinion On Emerging Drugs 14(4), 687–702
Martinez-Devesa, P., Perera, R., Theodoulou, M., & Waddell, A. (2010, September 8). Cognitive behavioral therapy for tinnitus. Cochrane Database Systematic Review, 8(9), CD005233
Phillips, JS, & McFerran, D. (2010, March 17). Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) for tinnitus [Abstract]. Cochrane Database Systematic Review(3), CD007330
Roberts, LE, Eggermont, JJ, Caspary, DM, Shore, SE, Melcher, JR, & Kaltenbach, JA (2010, November 10). Ringing ears: The neuroscience of tinnitus [Abstract]. The Journal of Neuroscience. 30(45): 14972-14979
Sanchez, TG, Moraes, F., Casseb, J., Cota, J., Freire, K., & Robers, LE (2016, May 12). Tinnitus is associated with reduced sound level tolerance in adolescents with normal audiograms and otoacoustic emissions. Scientific Reports 6