Tinnitus is defined as a perception of noise, such as buzzing or ringing, in the ears. It can be caused by several factors, including age, wax blockage, and exposure to loud noise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 50 million people in the US experience some form of tinnitus, that 20 million people have chronic tinnitus, and that two million people experience tinnitus to a debilitating degree.
However, you can protect your hearing and prevent or manage tinnitus by following these dos and don’ts:
Even though tinnitus is often associated with age-related hearing loss, people of all ages can experience tinnitus. Tinnitus can occur suddenly or develop gradually over time. Smoking, cardiovascular issues, and other underlying health problems may increase your risk of developing tinnitus. Noise exposure is strongly associated with the development of tinnitus.
Tinnitus is one of the most common service-connected disabilities for veterans, and cases have been increasing by about 15% per year since 2005. About 34% of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq experience tinnitus.
There are treatments that can help you get relief from tinnitus. Your audiologist can assess the causes, symptoms, and severity of your tinnitus and recommend appropriate treatment to manage it. Tinnitus treatments may include earwax removal, psychotherapy, white noise therapy, hearing aids, and tinnitus retraining therapy.
Schedule an appointment with your audiologist if you experience any tinnitus symptoms, including humming, hissing, buzzing, roaring, or ringing sounds. During your appointment, you should describe your symptoms to your audiologist, explain how the issue developed and how long you have been experiencing symptoms, and answer questions about such things as your related health history, previous noise exposure, and any medications you are taking. This will help the doctor understand your condition and provide treatment accordingly.
Tinnitus is commonly misunderstood. Some people are concerned that tinnitus is a disease and can lead to further consequences such as hearing loss or even deafness. Other people may believe that tinnitus is harmless and “all in your head” and should just be ignored. Neither belief is necessarily true. Tinnitus is a symptom rather than a disease itself, and while it normally is harmless, it can signal more serious underlying issues. And while the sounds of tinnitus can often be tolerated, in some cases, they can have a significant impact on the quality of life.
Take care of the volume of your music systems, earbuds, and televisions. Prolonged exposure to loud music can cause tinnitus and even hearing loss. For people who are unable to avoid loud sound levels, such as construction workers, musicians, and sound engineers, hearing protection (muffs, custom plugs, etc.) can be crucial for preventing tinnitus and hearing damage.
If you have tinnitus, you may experience different perceptions of sound, including whistling, clicking, or buzzing. You should not ignore these warning signs and make sure to get treatment quickly.
Tinnitus can significantly impact your quality of life and lead to anxiety, stress, and difficulty concentrating or sleeping. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Chris Hoffmann for tinnitus evaluation and management.