Have you ever heard a random ringing in your ears of which you're sure it's all in your head? Medicine actually has a name for this annoying phenomenon: tinnitus. But what is exactly tinnitus? Why is this happening? And can you do something about it? What You Should Know About This Strange Listening Experience:
Tinnitus usually means that you hear a sound that does not exist.
"It's the perception of a sound without a cause of the environment," Rachel Georgopoulos (1
About ten percent of adults in the United States experienced tinnitus for at least five minutes last year National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). However, the exact nature of the sound may vary from person to person. It is common for tinnitus to occur as a loud ringing, Dr. Georgopoulos, but you also hear humming, humming, roaring, clicking, hissing, swishing, or a heartbeat-like sound.
Tinnitus can be so loud that you find it hard to think, or it can be so soft that it is barely perceptible. It may be present in one or both ears; constant or intermittent; temporarily or permanently.
Tinnitus often occurs due to age- or noise-related hearing loss.
"I see it in many elderly patients," says Georgopoulos. As the Mayo Clinic explains, the number of working nerve fibers in your inner ear decreases with age. In your inner ear is the Cochlea (19459024) or the organ that actually lets you hear, so this loss of function can contribute to hearing problems.
Tinnitus may also be the result of noise-induced hearing loss, according to NIDCD which occurs when people who are exposed to loud sound without proper hearing protection suffer damage to inner ear sensorine hair cells that contribute to noise in to carry the brain. According to the Mayo Clinic tinnitus typically fades due to short-term noise, such as after a music festival. However, long-term exposure to loud noises can cause permanent hearing damage leading to tinnitus. That's why people working in jobs like construction or air traffic control are vulnerable to this problem, says Georgopoulos.
Tinnitus is also relatively common among service members and veterans, explains the NIDCD . When a bomb is fired, the explosion's shockwave can actually damage some of the tissue in the parts of the brain that are processing sound.
According to the NIDCD other possible tinnitus causes include sinus infections earwax blockages Ear infections, hormone fluctuations (estrogen and progesterone may affect the auditory system ) and a condition that affects Ménière Disease is associated with excessive fluid pressure in the inner ear
Tinnitus is also a known side effect of over 200 drugs, according to NIDCD . These medicines can range from antibiotics to chemotherapy treatments according to the Mayo Clinic . Although drug-induced tinnitus often disappears, in some cases it may remain behind.
Finally, there are a handful of people who have tinnitus for no apparent cause, according to NIDCD .
Fortunately, tinnitus, no matter what the cause, is often a minor annoyance that does not affect people's daily functioning because they have become used to it, Dr. Georgopoulos.
Tinnitus most commonly appears to be due to a malfunction on the way from the ear to the brain.
Scientists are not sure how to explain tinnitus. What you can say with certainty is that tinnitus is a sign that there is something in your hearing system. These include the ear itself, the auditory nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain, and the areas in the brain that project the sound to the NIDCD . Therefore, it is considered a symptom rather than a condition in itself.
The most established theories attempt to explain tinnitus associated with hearing loss. "We believe that your brain is trying to adapt to this hearing loss, and that there is an abnormal reorganization somewhere in the auditory pathway," explains Dr. Georgopoulos. A common theory according to NIDCD is that neural circuits can overcompensate for hearing loss by increasing the sonic sensitivity of the ear.
Other scientists believe that unusual interactions between the neuronal circuits involved in hearing (as well as other brain activities) are to blame for NIDCD . Or these circuits could be compromised if inner ear damage affects signal activity between the ear and the part of the brain that processes sounds.
Another theory compares tinnitus to a chronic pain syndrome according to NIDCD a condition in which someone still feels pain after the original pain source (such as a broken bone). Even if the temporary cause (such as an ear infection or a brief release of a loud noise) is removed, the tinnitus can persist indefinitely.
Tinnitus occurs less frequently because of a physical problem that makes the noise audible to doctors.
So far we have talked about subjective tinnitus, ie only the person with the symptom can hear the sound. This is clearly the more common form of tinnitus, experts say. However, an extremely small minority of tinnitus cases can be classified as objective according to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA). (The ATA estimates that less than 1% of tinnitus cases are objective.) If you have objective tinnitus, a doctor may introduce a research device such as a microphone into your ear canal and actually hear the same sound as you, Explains Georgopoulos.
Possible causes include an underlying anatomical abnormality in the region, such as a middle ear bone condition, muscle contraction, or a blood vessel problem according to the Mayo Clinic .
For example, if you have objective pulsatile tinnitus, you and your doctor can hear rhythmic, heartbeat-like sounds in your ear. This is usually due to irregular blood flow in the veins and arteries in the head or neck, caused by conditions such as high blood pressure atherosclerosis (a narrowing of the blood vessels that is caused by deposits such as cholesterol), a malformations of the capillaries or narrowing or buckling of the jugular vein or carotid artery after the Mayo clinic . According to NIDCD
this type of tinnitus may also be due to a tumor or a structural abnormality in the brain when the underlying problem is treated. In some cases, the risk of nerve damage or hearing loss is too high in an operation that requires surgical correction. Georgopoulos. However, there are other treatment options that target tinnitus.
There are some ways to find relief from tinnitus.
The more annoying a person's tinnitus is, the more they benefit from treatment.
] Hearing aids, according to NIDCD are a priority option for people with hearing-impaired tinnitus. The better you can hear external sounds, the less obvious is your tinnitus. This is the reason for trying to test cochlear implants for severe hearing loss related to tinnitus. These implants communicate directly with the auditory nerve and use sounds externally to mask tinnitus (NIDCD
). This is due to portable sound generators or small hearing aid-like devices that emit sounds (music, sounds, white noise) to hide tinnitus, according to NIDCD . You can also use an ambient sound or white noise machine to reduce tinnitus, which is particularly suitable for Sleeping .
If someone's tinnitus is stubborn and very loud, it's called a newer therapy called acoustic neural stimulation. Perhaps most helpful, says NIDCD . It uses a small handset and headphones to deliver a special sound signal that can affect neural circuits and render a person insensitive by ringing, buzzing or other tinnitus tones that plague them, the NIDCD The Relentless Tinnitus It may make it difficult for someone to concentrate, relax, or deal with the world, and he may also have to solve all the related mental health problems.
In more serious cases of tinnitus, "It becomes really difficult to speak and speak to other people, and to be in noisy environments, so it can be very stressful and isolating," Dr. Georgopoulos. For this reason, tinnitus is sometimes associated with mental health problems, such as depression (19459090) and anxiety explains the NIDCD . In these cases, counseling such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may be helpful in addition to some of the above measures.
With more time and research, doctors hope they have better treatments – or even cures. for tinnitus in the future. "Honestly, we still try to find a really good way to treat it," says Dr. Georgopoulos. "It's so common and can be very debilitating."