Many people experience a persistent ringing in their ears. This common affliction, known as tinnitus, affects roughly 20% of the American population. Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound when none is actually occurring. For some it is a minor nuisance but for others, a major impediment to their quality of life.
It is important to note that tinnitus isn’t a disease itself, but a symptom. As such, it can occur as the result of a number of conditions. These include hearing loss, noise exposure, head or neck trauma, high blood pressure, vascular disorders, heart conditions, ototoxic medications, benign tumors known as acoustic neuromas, and impacted earwax. Sometimes, the cause is never determined. The individuals most at risk are males over the age of 40 who smoke.
Tinnitus is most often described as a ringing in the ears, but may also take the form of a buzzing, whooshing, roaring, clicking, hissing or whistling sound. For some people, these persistent symptoms significantly impact quality of life. Side effects can include fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, and memory/concentration problems.
The good news is that there are treatment options. In rare cases, the underlying condition that is responsible for the symptoms can be found and treated. More commonly, doctors will employ a tinnitus management strategy. The most popular is sound therapy. This treatment uses various sounds to disguise the persistent background noises. Over time, many patients learn to stop noticing the sounds.
Another concept involves acoustic neural stimulation. Acoustic signals are delivered through a handheld device, helping the neural circuits to become desensitized to the noise. Patients with hearing aids can also turn up the volume and drown out the annoying ringing noises associated with tinnitus.
If you are experiencing tinnitus symptoms, contact our office today to make an appointment.
About the author.
Julia Bell, AuD, is an audiologist at HFM Hearing & Balance. To schedule an appointment with her, call (920) 320-4760.