Most of the time, tinnitus is the perception of sound that isn’t there.
In rare cases, other people can hear it coming from your ear canal. Most people describe it as a ringing or buzzing sensation, or like “crickets.” It can be quite bothersome. It is often associated with hearing loss. Although there are about 50 different causes of tinnitus, tinnitus and hearing loss are often both caused by exposure to loud sound. The most common causes are:
- Sudden impact noises
- Exposure to loud sounds over time
- Untreated medical conditions
- Head and neck injuries
- Medication side effects (called ototoxicity)
- Natural aging (age-related ear changes may have a genetic component)
While there are no known cures, it is possible to get it to “fade away” so that it is not so bothersome. Use of hearing aids, when appropriate, often helps by giving the brain other sounds to focus on. Some hearing aids have sound generators built in that produce white noise (or pink noise, speech noise, ocean waves, etc.) that may be more pleasant to listen to and may give some relief from the tinnitus.
Over time, and with proper counseling and product programming, the tinnitus may cease being a problem. The first step is a medical quality hearing evaluation to try to determine the cause. Often having an ear, nose, and throat physician review the test results helps put your mind at ease. Once you know it isn’t anything serious that needs medical treatment, you can learn to stop noticing it, like people who live next to a railroad track stop noticing the trains. It sounds difficult, but Dr. Boatz has been able to do it for her own case of tinnitus. Come get a hearing evaluation and talk to her about your tinnitus.