If you experience a constant or near-constant ringing or whooshing sound in your ears, you’re not alone. Tinnitus is a common ailment that can leave you feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and unsure of your next steps. Luckily, many forms of tinnitus can be treated or even cured! Read on to learn more about what tinnitus is, what causes it, and how it can be treated.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus, at its core, is a sound that only you can hear. Most often, it’s described as a ringing sound, but it can also take the form of hissing, static, crickets, screeching, whooshing, roaring, pulsating, ocean waves, buzzing, dial tones or even music. It might come on suddenly and disappear, or remain as constant background noise. Sometimes it is pulsating, or only happens occasionally. It is especially noticeable in a quiet room.
Tinnitus can cause its sufferers to experience distress, anxiety, sleep disruptions, frustration, poor concentration, and even pain. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. If you are experiencing tinnitus that disrupts your life, it’s important that you see a hearing care professional to determine its cause and potential forms of treatment.
What Causes Tinnitus?
The most common causes of tinnitus include hearing loss, blockage in the ear canal, head or neck injury, dental issues, sinus pressure from a severe cold/flu, sinus infection, or ototoxic drugs, which are medications that can have ear-damaging side effects.
How Is Tinnitus Diagnosed?
Before you can begin treating your tinnitus, you have to understand what is causing it. Everyone experiences tinnitus differently, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
To help develop a treatment plan, your hearing care professional will ask you a variety of questions about your symptoms to determine the severity and source of your tinnitus. Then they will perform a visual examination of your ears as well as a variety of hearing tests. Your exam might include:
- A pitch match test, which can help your hearing care professional determine which frequencies of sound you are hearing. You’ll be asked to compare the pitch of your tinnitus to an external tone (if it is a higher or lower pitch) and try to match it as best as possible.
- A loudness match test, which like the pitch match test will help to determine how loud the sound you are hearing is. Most people will experience soft sounds as tinnitus rather than loud ones.
- A visual analog scale in which your hearing care professional will ask you to rate the perceived loudness of your tinnitus from 0 to 10. Often, the perceived loudness will be greater than the actual decibel level shown in the loudness match test.
How Is Tinnitus Treated?
Based on the results of your hearing evaluation, you may be recommended a variety of treatment options. Sometimes, it is as simple as treating the underlying cause of your tinnitus, like a sinus infection, to completely cure your tinnitus!
Unfortunately, a lot of tinnitus is caused by permanent hearing damage that cannot be reversed. However, there are still many options that can help you mask the sound.
If your tinnitus is caused by hearing loss, a set of hearing aids can virtually cure your tinnitus while you are wearing them. In fact, many hearing aids today come equipped with tinnitus therapy features!
There are also tinnitus masking and noise suppression devices that can be worn like a hearing aid around your ear. These devices are designed to emit tones that compete with your tinnitus using information gathered from the pitch match and loudness match tests. You can also use a white noise machine in a quiet room to help mask the sound of your tinnitus, which is especially useful at night when you’re trying to sleep.
If you or someone you know is suffering from tinnitus, it is absolutely worth having a hearing evaluation done to find out what your options are for relief. Call Community Hearing Care at 236-424-3000 and book your hearing evaluation today!