If you’re experiencing a phantom ringing sound in your ears, you might be reluctant to admit it to anybody for fear of being accused of having an overactive imagination. But fear not, you are not alone – and certainly not imagining things! You are likely experiencing tinnitus, and if you’re in an elevator filled with 10 people, another person in there is hearing the same thing.
What is Tinnitus?
Let’s start with what tinnitus isn’t: a medical condition. It’s actually a symptom rather than a disease. There are many factors that can contribute to tinnitus, including:
- Noise exposure
- Hearing loss
- Obstructions in the ear canal (wax buildup, ear infection)
- Medications that can harm the ears (aspirin, quinine, certain antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and chemotherapy drugs)
- Natural aging
- Meniere’s disease
- Temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ)
- Head and neck injuries
- Medical conditions such as hypertension, heart disease, circulation disorders, autoimmune diseases and diabetes
Tinnitus is most often described as a ringing in the ears, though people experience a wide range of sounds, including roaring, whooshing, hissing, clicking, whistling and buzzing. About 50 million people have tinnitus to some degree, making it one of the most common physical health complaints in Austin. It affects people quite differently and everybody’s experience is unique; some people notice it only occasionally and are easily able to ignore it, while others find it a constant distraction that interferes with many areas of their daily lives. It can cause irritability, stress, fatigue and depression, and have a negative impact on productivity in the workplace.
How is Tinnitus Treated?
When it comes to treating your tinnitus, we’ve got bad news and good news. There is no cure for tinnitus (that’s the bad news, obviously), but there are proven coping strategies to help you manage the symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life.
The most popular and effective solutions include masking techniques such as white noise therapy. These work by refocusing your brain’s attention onto another sound other than the ringing in your ears, such as falling rain or ocean waves. There are plenty of smartphone apps you can download, or simply switch on a fan or air-conditioner to achieve the same effect. Tinnitus retraining therapy works similarly but uses patterned musical notes to mask the tinnitus.
Texans with tinnitus also find help from counseling, relaxation exercises and meditation, lifestyle modifications and, in some cases, switching to new medications. Your Austin hearing specialist can address your own unique needs and provide recommendations to help lessen the effects of your tinnitus symptoms.