Imagine hearing a constant ringing in your ears. One you can't get away from, no matter where you go or what you do. It’s a reality for some people who suffer from Tinnitus.
Tinnitus is the ringing, buzzing, humming or roaring sounds a person hears when no outside sound is present. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, roughly 25 million Americans have experienced tinnitus, lasting at least five minutes, in the past year.
Tinnitus itself is not a disease, but it’s a sign something is wrong in the auditory system. Some causes of tinnitus are:
- Noise-induced hearing loss
- Concussion/Traumatic Brain Injury
- Ear/sinus infection
- Diseases of the heart or blood vessels
- Meniere’s disease
- Brain tumors
- Wax impaction
- Hormonal changes in women
- Thyroid abnormalities
Tinnitus can be the first sign of hearing loss and is also a side effect of more than 200 drugs. Tinnitus can be a disturbing and upsetting phenomenon, affecting a person’s sleep or stress levels.
Effectiveness of treatments for tinnitus can vary. An evaluation by an audiologist is the first place to start. An audiologist will perform a hearing test, as well as several other specialized tests, to determine your auditory function. Your audiologist may recommend a medical exam to ensure the tinnitus is not being caused by a medical condition.
A variety of tinnitus treatments are available: tinnitus maskers, biofeedback, cognitive behavior therapy, hearing aids, medication and habituation therapy. Most people report some benefit when these therapies are used. About 65 percent of patients who use hearing aids reported a reduction in or elimination of their tinnitus. To date, no herbal supplements, vitamins or other homeopathic remedies have been clinically proven to alleviate tinnitus.
Some studies have shown lowering your intake of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol can help. Minimizing noise exposure and getting moderate amounts of exercise have also been found to reduce tinnitus.
For more information on tinnitus, make an appointment with your audiologist or visit www.ata.org (the American Tinnitus Association).