Tinnitus, its Causes, and What Can Be Done to Reduce it?
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus which is often described as a ringing in the ears is an issue, in which suffering individuals hear ringing, whistling, and buzzing sounds. It may also sound like loud clicking and roaring sounds. These sounds may be high-pitched or low pitched and individuals with tinnitus might hear them in both ears or one ear. The ringing and buzzing noise heard by individuals with Tinnitus isn’t caused due to any external sounds. These ringing noises are louder in case of low background noises. This causes the individuals with tinnitus difficulty in concentrating and sleeping.
By many ear health professionals and institutes, tinnitus has not been considered a disease but rather a symptom of something wrong with the auditory system. Tinnitus may be caused due to aging or due to some other issues like injury, genetic reasons, some ototoxic medications or alcohol, and drug consumption. But it is also caused due to a host of other reasons such as ear, and sinus infections, noise-induced hearing loss, or even due to cardiovascular issues.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is caused commonly due to exposure to loud sounds. Most people with tinnitus suffer from some degree of noise-induced hearing loss or damage in one or more parts of the internal ear. Listening to loud music or being close to any source generating sounds above hazardous levels may cause immediate damage to the ears and cause tinnitus. This hearing loss may be in any part of the ear and may be due to damage in the eardrums or permanent damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear. Most of the time tinnitus is a symptom, indicating some kind of damage to the ears.
Tinnitus also can happen as an occupational hazard. Musicians, pilots, carpenters, people working with loud machines in factories, and traffic police exposed to loud traffic noises are at a high risk of having tinnitus. Similar to the cases of hearing loss, tinnitus can also happen due to sudden exposure to any loud noises above 180 dB. Apart from these, other reasons that may cause tinnitus are wax build-up and fungal infections inside the ears. The presence of some tumors in the auditory nerves may also cause tinnitus.
Why Does Tinnitus Cause These Ringing Sounds?
The source of tinnitus is actually the neural circuits, even though because of the ringing sounds in the ears, the source seems to be the ears. There is a lot of research being done in the medical field to find what actually happens in the brain to cause these ringing sounds in the ears. Many studies indicate an imbalance in neural networks that is caused due to damaged auditory nerves or damage in the inner ear. This damage to the inner ears could cause a change in signaling activity in the brain leading to the illusion of ringing and buzzing sounds.
What Can Be Done to Treat Tinnitus?
Although no cure for tinnitus has been discovered yet, there are several remedies to manage it. For any individual with tinnitus, it is always recommended to visit an audiologist to check if there is any sign of hearing loss. If any sign of hearing loss is found, the audiologist would recommend remedies like assistive hearing devices or stimulation devices. The assistive hearing devices are helpful in case of hearing loss coupled with tinnitus, as the careful adjustment of the outside sounds not only helps in proper listening but also makes the ringing and buzzing sound less noticeable.
Audiologists recommend a mix of the below-stated treatments depending on how mild or severe an individual’s tinnitus is. These treatments are:
- Assistive Hearing Devices: As discussed above, assistive hearing devices or hearing aid devices are recommended for patients who are with hearing loss and tinnitus. The amplified surrounding sounds from the hearing aid, help people with hearing loss listen. These surrounding sounds mask the buzzing and ringing sounds.
- Wearable White Sound Generators: The wearable white sound generators are meant to mask the ringing and buzzing sounds. These sound generators consist of soothing sounds such as faint buzzing sounds, sounds of nature, or some relaxing music. The sound levels of the white sound generator can be adjusted as per the need of the individual with tinnitus. This masking sound helps the patient concentrate or fall asleep at night.
- Tabletop Sound Generators: The tabletop sound generators are the same as wearable white sound generators except they cannot be worn by the patient. They are mostly used to mask the sounds while sleeping.
- Cochlear Implants: Cochlear implants help in the signaling activity to the brain by, bypassing the damaged portion of the ears. The sound processing unit of the cochlear implant brings in outside sounds that mask the ringing sounds of tinnitus. They also stimulate the auditory nerves and fix imbalanced neural networks. This reduces the loudness and frequency of ringing sounds.
- Acoustic neural stimulation: Acoustic neural stimulation is usually recommended for patients with severe and persistent tinnitus. The treatment helps stimulate the neural network and change it. It helps in both masking the tinnitus and in getting desensitized to it.
How to Prevent Tinnitus?
The best way to prevent tinnitus or prevent it from getting worse is by avoiding exposure to loud sounds. Unhealthy listening habits such as prolonged usage of regular earphones/headphones, listening to music at hazardous sound levels, and exposing oneself to places like nightclubs and discos cause noise-induced hearing loss. According to many esteemed health institutions, noise-induced hearing loss and damage to the inner ears is the most common cause of tinnitus. By avoiding unhealthy listening practices and using earmuffs or earplugs in places with loud sounds one can easily prevent tinnitus.
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If you are experiencing difficulty in hearing or experiencing any ringing, buzzing, or whistling sounds in your ears, visit https://wehear.in/hearing-test/. You can also give us a call at +91-9033047731 to schedule your hearing test.