Tinnitus is a ringing or swishing noise in one or both ears that originates inside the ear or head. Tinnitus is the perception of sound when there is no sound present in one’s physical environment. The most common ways tinnitus is described is by hearing ringing, hissing, roaring, and static. Tinnitus can be temporary or constant, while it is not harmful, the sound can be disturbing, particularly in chronic cases.
Tinnitus is a symptom associated with many forms of hearing loss. The most common cause is exposure to loud noises; aging, jaw joint misalignment and hearing loss may also cause tinnitus. According to estimates by the American Tinnitus Association, at least 12 million Americans have tinnitus. Of these, at least 1 million experience it so severely that it interferes with their daily activities. People with severe cases of tinnitus may find it difficult to hear, work, or even sleep.
Temporary tinnitus is likely to occur after exposure to excessive noise levels, including but not limited to attending a concert, use of power tools or firearms as well as close proximity to an unexpected noise like an explosion. These exposures often result in a temporary threshold shift of hearing in conjunction with some tinnitus perception. These changes often subside over a short time post-exposure. Constant tinnitus is often associated with damage done to the auditory system at some point in time. Possible causes include hearing loss, ototoxicity from medications known to be toxic to the auditory system, head injury, auditory disorders and tumors of the auditory system. In most cases, it is a collective effect of one or more of these causes.
Think about things that will help you cope. Many people find listening to music very helpful. Focusing on music might help you forget about your tinnitus for a while. It can also help mask the sound. Other people like to listen to recorded nature sounds, like ocean waves, the wind, or even crickets. Avoid anything that can make your tinnitus worse. This includes smoking, alcohol, and loud noise. If you are a construction worker, an airport worker, or a hunter, or if you are regularly exposed to loud noise at home or at work, wear earplugs or special earmuffs to protect your hearing and keep your tinnitus from getting worse.
If a person experiences a sudden onset in tinnitus perception or is bothered by long-standing constant tinnitus then he or she should seek care from a professional. A thorough medical history, a traditional hearing test as well as several objective tests are conducted to determine how each part of the auditory system is functioning. Non-invasive treatment options to reduce the perception of tinnitus include hearing aids, tinnitus retraining therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy, all of which would be implemented by the audiologist. To schedule an appointment with the Ear, Nose and Throat Institute, please call 770-740-1860. We have offices all over the Atlanta area, from Lawrenceville to Alpharetta, so don’t hesitate to contact us.