Tinnitus is a condition that causes a person to hear ringing, buzzing, or other noise in their ears. The noise can be constant or intermittent, and it may be soft or loud.
Tinnitus affects about 15 to 20 percent of people in the United States. It is more common in older adults, but it can occur at any age. Men are more likely to develop tinnitus than women.
Tinnitus can cause a person to develop difficulty focusing, difficulty hearing, sleep problems, fatigue, depression, or anxiety, so the more you can do to treat it or prevent it, the better your long-term outcome.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is not a disease, but it is a symptom of an underlying condition. There are many possible causes of tinnitus, including hearing loss, earwax buildup, and other health conditions. Some of the most common causes are:
- Age-related hearing loss is the most common cause of tinnitus in older adults.
- Sudden or long-term loud noise exposure can damage the auditory system and lead to tinnitus. This is very common in people who have had a career in the military.
- Earwax blockage or impaction
- Medical conditions such as Meniere’s disease, long COVID, a benign tumor, or diabetes
- Trauma to the brain or ear
- Certain medications that damage the hearing nerve
One of the main theories is that when someone has a hearing loss, tinnitus is the sound the brain makes to replace the sounds it isn’t hearing anymore.
How Is Tinnitus Diagnosed?
If the hearing test results show no hearing loss, you’ll be referred to an ENT specialist for further tests to determine the cause.
How Is Tinnitus Treated?
There are many treatment plans Audiological Services can use to manage your tinnitus and minimize its symptoms. Sometimes tinnitus is even cured with the right treatment approach.
Treatment options include:
- Hearing aids: If your tinnitus is caused by a hearing loss, hearing aids can sometimes even stop the tinnitus.
- Sound therapy: This involves using sound to mask the noise from tinnitus. White noise machines, tinnitus instruments, music therapy, and other devices can provide relief.
- Relaxation techniques: These can help reduce stress and the distraction of the tinnitus.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy: This is a long-term treatment that involves wearing a device that creates low-level white noise. The goal is to help the brain learn to ignore the noise from tinnitus.
- Change medications: If any of the medications you are on can damage hearing (ototoxic), changing them to safer medications can help.
How to Prevent Tinnitus
There is no certain way to prevent tinnitus, as it can be caused by a variety of things. However, there are some things that you can do to reduce your risk of developing tinnitus or making it worse.
Wear ear protection: Some causes of tinnitus are avoidable, such as exposure to loud noise. If you work in a loud environment, be sure to wear ear protection. When you go somewhere that is full of loud noise, like a music concert, make sure you don’t stand by the speakers. Even your earplugs might not be able to protect you from that.
Today’s earplugs look like regular phone earbuds, so there’s no fear of them looking any different to any other earpiece.
Take noise breaks: Your ears can cope better with loud sounds if you give them regular breaks. This gives your ears time to recover and readjust before they are then exposed to loud noises again. Just make sure that you are giving yourself and your ears enough time before you go back to where the noise is.
Learn safe noise levels: If you visit an audiologist, they will be able to tell you what noise levels are safe for your ears and which are not, or you can buy a device that will tell you the noise level in a room at any given time.
Be sure to only set the volume in your earbuds or headphones to safe listening levels.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Consider quitting smoking and reducing your intake of alcohol, coffee, sugar, and salt considerably, as all these increase your risk of developing or worsening the condition. Exercise increases blood flow to the brain, and a good sleep schedule helps the body repair itself at night.
Diagnose and treat related medical conditions: Some medical conditions can cause tinnitus, such as Meniere’s disease. If you have a family history of this condition, early detection and treatment can help lessen the symptoms.
Reduce stress: Stress and anxiety can sometimes be the cause of tinnitus, as they add to muscular pain and jaw pain, so lowering your stress levels can help. Do things that you enjoy every day, and take some well-deserved time for yourself to create a healthy life balance.
Manage Your Tinnitus in Lufkin, Texas
If you are concerned about tinnitus, or think you may be developing the condition, book a tinnitus appointment with Audiological Services. We will take note of your medical history and the symptoms you are experiencing, conduct a hearing test, and recommend a tinnitus management plan based on the results.
We can also discuss the risks of your current lifestyle regarding how they contribute to your tinnitus, and we can guide you on how to best protect your hearing from now on.