Anyone who has been to a very loud concert or sporting event will be familiar with the sound of ringing in the ears that lasts beyond the loud event. Perhaps you have been to a loud restaurant and were surprised to find a lasting haze of high pitches in your ears after walking outside to the quiet street. For those who experience tinnitus, however, these sounds do not go away. An estimated 15 to 20 percent of people will develop a form of tinnitus over their lifetime. Although the experiences are varied, what these conditions have in common is that the sound does not go away simply by moving to a quiet location. Let’s take a look at some of the facts about tinnitus, as well as what you can do to prevent it. Finally, we’ll consider what to do if you already have this persistent sound in your ears.
Facts about Tinnitus
Tinnitus is the condition of hearing a ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking, hissing, or humming sound when no external sound source is present. This phantom noise may come and go, but those with tinnitus will know that the sound can come back at any time, particularly when in a quiet place like the time before falling asleep at night. Two kinds of tinnitus can be experienced. The first, subjective tinnitus, occurs in the pathway from the ears to the brain. Something along the way is damaged in a way that it tricks the mind into perceiving sound even when there is no reason to hear the sound. For instance, the tiny hairlike cells of the cochlea in the inner ear might have been broken or bent in a way that makes them send electrical impulses to the brain at all times. In other cases, the auditory nerve itself might be damaged in a way that modulates the signal being sent. The second major type, objective tinnitus, is less common. Those with objective tinnitus have a physical condition in the ear that a doctor or technician can “hear” or measure in the ear. These sounds tend to be due to cardiovascular conditions, such as a blood vessel near the cochlea that emits a constant sound. Unfortunately, the most common forms of tinnitus will not go away on their own. Sounds can be masked, but they will not recede without treatment.
The most common cause of tinnitus is exposure to noise and loud sound. Those who work in environments that expose them to loud sound can do damage to the hairlike cells of the inner ear. This damage can lead to hearing loss, as we know, but the damage an also cause a constant pitch to be sensed after years of exposure to loud sounds. In order to prevent this type of tinnitus, it is crucial to wear hearing protection whenever you are exposed to loud sounds. Even if the duration is rather short, a very loud sound can be damaging to the ears. Those whose workplaces expose them to noise should not only consult with management regarding what can be done to limit exposure but also they should be sure to wear the hearing protection that is provided and required by law. Noise cancelling ear muffs and earplugs can do a great deal to prevent tinnitus as well as hearing loss. Another crucial preventative measure is to limit the use and volume of headphones, including earbuds. Even very young people can do damage to their ears through the extended use of these devices at loud volumes, so make sure to keep the time using headphones to a limited time each day.
If you have already incurred tinnitus, the good news is that there are treatments available to help remedy these frustrating sounds. Those who have subjective tinnitus can benefit from hearing aids and other assistive devices that emit a sound that will mask the persistent pitch of tinnitus. Ringing in the ears can be cancelled with a competing pitch, so these devices can do wonders for the subjective experience of tinnitus. If you have a medical condition causing objective tinnitus, your doctor may prescribe a more complex nexus of treatment to solve underlying health problems, as well.
For hearing health and tinnitus services, Palm Beach Hearing Associates is here for you. Contact us today to learn more about tinnitus treatment options!