Ringing in your ears, also known as tinnitus, is a common phenomenon. Tinnitus can occur in both individuals with hearing loss and without. This makes tinnitus and hearing loss two separate matters. Therefore, how they are treated is different.
Before we talk about tinnitus, what is tinnitus? Harvard Health defines tinnitus as a “sound in the head with no external source. For many, it’s a ringing sound, while for others, it’s whistling, buzzing, chirping, hissing, humming, roaring, or even shrieking”. Tinnitus can occur in one ear or both ears. Every situation is different, for some tinnitus can occur monthly and for others, it can be a continuous occurrence. “As many as 50 to 60 mission people in the United States suffer from this condition” (health.harvard.edu). Some individuals experience short-term tinnitus after being exposed to loud noises, such as listening to music at a loud volume or attending a sporting event. In most cases, there is not one specific incident that led to a person having tinnitus. In some cases, tinnitus is worsened by stress, health issues, limited physical activity, poor diet, or musculoskeletal factors, like jaw clenching or muscle tension in the neck.
There is no quick treatment for tinnitus. Depending on the severity of your tinnitus, mild or severe, is how you would go about management. Mild tinnitus could be classified as tinnitus that occurs daily, weekly, or monthly and does not interfere with the individual’s quality of life. The tinnitus does not cause the individual to not be able to hold a conversation, work, or sleep. Severe tinnitus can be classified as occurring constantly without relief. The tinnitus is nonstop and bothersome to the patient’s quality of life. Both mild and severe tinnitus should be managed with lifestyle changes such as reducing stress, creating healthy eating habits, and setting your body on a routine that allows physical activity as well as enough to get enough rest. Maskers such as white noise, rainfall, or anything peaceful to the individuals are recommended to be used, especially during the night when the majority of individuals with tinnitus reported it being the most bothersome. When using maskers, it is important to play the masking noise at the volume of tinnitus or right below the volume of the tinnitus the individual is experiencing. If the masker is playing louder than the tinnitus when the masker stops playing, the tinnitus will be perceived as louder. Maskers are thought to help tinnitus because it is training the brain to focus on the peaceful noise rather than the tinnitus. Hearing aids are also thought to be a treatment for tinnitus for this same reason. The hearing aids amplify environmental noise which causes the individual to focus on this rather than the tinnitus. Hearing aids would not be recommended for an individual with mild tinnitus and no hearing loss. However, if the individual has severe tinnitus, hearing aids, specifically programmed for tinnitus management, might be suggested.
Tinnitus is a common phenomenon. Although there is no cure, there are ways to manage it. Make sure you are not struggling with tinnitus and seek treatment. If you or a loved one are having ear or hearing difficulty, please contact your local audiologist or hearing care professional today!