If you live with the annoying symptoms of tinnitus, you are not alone. A new study out of the University of California, Irvine has found that about 9.6% of the 75,764 adult respondents in the US have experienced tinnitus in the last 12 months. Of those who experience tinnitus, 27% have had symptoms for over 15 years and 36% report nearly constant symptoms (https://www.hear-it.org/one-ten-us-adults-suffer-tinnitus). These results are staggering, but other reports have identified tinnitus as an even more common issue, with Mayo Clinic estimating about 1 in 5 (or 20%) people suffer from tinnitus in the United States.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus affects different people in different ways. It typically presents as a ringing, buzzing, whistling, roaring or clicking in one or both of the ears. Sometimes the symptoms of tinnitus are temporary, for example, when you leave a noisy concert. For others, the symptoms can be permanent. Tinnitus can be a constant annoyance or its symptoms can come and go. People who engage in noisy activities at work or during leisure time are more likely to experience tinnitus than those who do not.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus itself is not actually a condition. Instead, it is almost always a symptom of another underlying condition. Tinnitus is most often associated with some degree of hearing loss, however, some people with normal hearing also experience tinnitus.
- Hearing Loss: Whether caused by excess exposure to loud noises or natural aging, hearing loss is a common cause of tinnitus. If you experience tinnitus, it is important to get your hearing checked right away by a licensed hearing healthcare professional.
- Meniere’s Disease: Tinnitus can be an early indicator of Meniere’s disease, which is an inner ear disorder that is caused by ear fluid pressure that is considered abnormal. Meniere’s disease can also cause hearing loss and vertigo.
- TMJ Disorders: TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint disorder, which is an issue with the bones that move the jaw. TMJ can cause the jaw to lock, can cause pain, and can also cause tinnitus.
- Certain Medications: Some medications have been known to cause or worsen symptoms of tinnitus. These include antibiotics, cancer medications, quinine medications (malaria pills), some antidepressants and aspirin. If you take any of these medications, speak with your doctor about your meds and their potential connection to your tinnitus.
Living with Tinnitus
At the moment, there is no absolute cure for tinnitus. However, there are quite a few treatment options and lifestyle changes that have been effective in relieving tinnitus symptoms for some people. For some, tinnitus is so severe that it interferes with their ability to concentrate, complete tasks, or sleep. This can lead to depression, anxiety and insomnia. If you live with tinnitus, it is extremely important to talk to your doctor about your specific circumstances and to check for underlying causes. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help alleviate tinnitus.
- Eat a Healthy Diet – Some data has shown a correlation between salt consumption and tinnitus, so exploring a low-salt diet may help to alleviate symptoms. In general, eating a healthy and balanced diet will improve a myriad of health concerns, including circulation – which is an important aspect of hearing and ear health.
- Get Plenty of Exercise – Exercise is one of those amazing tools that helps in almost every aspect of our lives – including hearing and tinnitus. Exercise improves your emotional health by reducing stress and increasing relaxation. It has been found that stress is a huge contributor and exasperator of tinnitus.
- Cognitive Therapies – Cognitive therapy helps people with tinnitus to better understand and deal with their emotional reaction to the phantom noises. Cognitive behavior therapy helps to change the way a person with tinnitus thinks about and reacts to their tinnitus – making it less of an issue in their daily life.
- Get Your Hearing Checked – This one is paramount. A huge majority of people with tinnitus also have some degree of hearing loss. If you do also have hearing loss, many of today’s hearing aids come equipped with effective tinnitus treatment functions. Visit us at Atlanta Hearing Doctor for a consultation and comprehensive hearing test.