3 Things to Understand About Tinnitus
Tinnitus is a constant ringing in the ears (or roaring, whooshing, whistling or hissing). It can be extremely irritating to the sufferer who finds the constant background noise distracting, especially when trying to sleep at night. It may help if you understand a little of the causes and treatments for tinnitus, so that you can take control rather than have the condition control you.
What causes tinnitus?
Much like a headache, tinnitus is not a diagnosis in its own rite, but a symptom of another problem. Sometimes it’s possible to discover what the underlying problem is, treat it and get rid of the ringing. Other times the tinnitus is ‘idiopathic’ or has not obvious cause, but in these cases around two-thirds resolve by themself.
Tinnitus may occur if there is an issue with the ear or hearing mechanism. Examples include:
- Exposure to excessively loud noises
- Hearing loss
- Buildup of wax in the ear canal
- Drugs that are toxic to hearing
But there are plenty of other possible explanations such as:
- High blood pressure
- A head injury
- Excessive amounts of coffee
- Cigarette smoking
With this in mind, if you develop tinnitus it’s a good idea to get your hearing checked by an audiologist and your health checked by a physician.
How is tinnitus diagnosed?
The physician will take a medical history, including any medications your take, plus check your external ear canal and measure your blood pressure. It might be necessary to run blood tests to check for anemia or other problems that could induce tinnitus.
An audiologist will perform an in-depth hearing test. This gives a full picture of the state of your hearing and pinpoints where any problems lie. In addition the audiologist will want to know if one or both ears are affected, how distracting the sound is, whether it varies in intensity depending on the time of day and whether it is low or high-pitched.
All of this information helps to build the bigger picture and by correcting any underlying issues, such as hearing loss these issues, this helps decrease the impact of the tinnitus.
How is tinnitus treated?
The first priority is to treat any problems that are triggering the tinnitus, such as high blood pressure. Once this is resolved you should find the tinnitus has also gone away. Likewise, for those with hearing loss, a hearing device can make a real difference. This is because you are no longer straining to hear and so the ringing in your head is less distinctive as it’s now competing with regular everyday sounds.
If you are struggling to sleep because of the tinnitus, your audiologist can suggested techniques and equipment that will give you some relief. These include tinnitus maskers, sound machines and relaxation techniques.
Rest assured, you do not have to suffer tinnitus in silence, instead speak to your audiologist for ways and means to overcome this irritating and frustrating problem.