What Is Tinnitus?

March 26th, 2013 by Jessica Rosario, Au.D.


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Non Stop Ringing in the Ears

An ambulance whizzes past with sirens blasting full force, the sound bouncing off every solid surface, making its way directly to the eardrums. No matter how hard you try to block the sound, a penetrating, high-pitched noise rings loudly in your ears, and you have no way to control or stop it. This rather unfortunate and annoying condition is called tinnitus. It can manifest in the form of a long, high-pitched, buzzing, roaring, or pulsing noise and often occurs when there are no external sounds present. The levels of sounds in the ear can vary; some instances may be faint enough to ignore, while at other times it can be temporarily deafening.

Prevalence of Tinnitus

According to the American Tinnitus Association, 50 million people in the United States experience tinnitus; out of those 50 million, 16 million have symptoms severe enough to require medical attention, and many of them struggle to the point that their normal daily functions are affected.

A Symptom, Not a Disease

Tinnitus is not a disease. It is a symptom that something is wrong in the auditory system — for example, a buildup of earwax, a sign of hearing loss, or a side effect of medication, among other possibilities. Some people develop tinnitus for no obvious reason, and most of the time it’s not a sign of a serious problem.
Even though direct exposure to noise is the main cause, tinnitus can be triggered or worsened by many other health-related issues, such as fibromyalgia, head/neck trauma, cardiovascular disease, wax buildup in the ears, and more.

Treatment Options

Since tinnitus is a symptom and not a disease, there is currently no cure. For those with severe, debilitating symptoms, there are treatments that can be performed by a professional, such as the fitting of hearing aids, cochlear implants, drug therapy, sound therapy, and more. Even though these treatments are not considered cures, they can significantly reduce and/or aid the sufferer in gaining some relief. Some patients may recommend using more than one treatment to maximize results.

Tinnitus Prevention

To prevent tinnitus, there are some changes that can be made without a professional medical advisor’s help. If you work in a loud environment, you should purchase earplugs — they will block the sound waves from reaching your inner ear. Be sure to use actual earplugs; cotton balls or toilet paper will not offer much protection. They can also fall out or leave cotton or tissue residue behind in your ears, leading to further buildup. Turning down the volume on your headphones and speakers will also help prevent tinnitus, since high sound volumes are directly linked to tinnitus. It is well known that smoking cigarettes and drinking caffeine and alcohol can worsen symptoms, while frequent exercise may actually prevent tinnitus because it improves blood flow to the ear.

Contact an Audiologist for Tinnitus Help

Tinnitus symptoms can vary from person to person; what may be a faint buzzing sound for one individual may be a crippling experience for the next. If you feel your tinnitus is affecting your ability to lead a normal and comfortable life, seek the advice of your audiologist to see if there is something they can do or suggest in helping you live a happier and quieter life.

Jessica Rosario, Au.D.

About Jessica Rosario, Au.D.

The Center for Healthy Hearing has been helping people improve the quality of their lives in Houston and surrounding areas in Texas for many years now. Their audiologists have a reputation for always having the latest digital hearing aids on the market today.