Understanding the Basics of Tinnitus
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Tinnitus is a term used to describe hearing a ringing, buzzing or whooshing that can’t be attributed to outside sources. It’s a term that causes some confusion, as it describes a symptom rather than a condition. It can be experienced in isolation, as well as in relation to other health issues and conditions, such as hearing loss. A hearing care provider can help you understand more about tinnitus, but here is some of the most relevant information about it.
What is tinnitus?
The mechanisms of tinnitus are not fully known. It can vary greatly from person to person. For some people, it can sound like bells or a humming noise. For others, it might match the rhythm of their heartbeat or sound like musical notes. It can be persistent for some and intermittent for others. Some people live all their lives with tinnitus, while others will experience it for a time before it goes away, either because the underlying cause is treated or on its own.
What causes tinnitus?
There are a few different causes of tinnitus. Most often, it is related to hearing loss, especially if that hearing loss is caused by exposure to loud noise. If you’re concerned you have tinnitus, your hearing care provider will want to conduct a hearing test to help determine the cause. Other causes include trauma to the head, certain medication, compacted earwax and even emotional health issues like stress. In some cases, the cause of tinnitus may never be found, but just because you are the only one who hears the noise does not mean you’re not experiencing it.
Are there any complications?
Living with tinnitus can be very difficult. For one, the constant exposure to a noise that you cannot control can cause severe stress and anxiety. It also commonly gets louder in quieter environments, so it can be a huge disruption to sleep. Additionally, it can impact your ability to hear and communicate, which can strain your relationships.
What are tinnitus treatment options?
While tinnitus cannot be fully cured, there are a number of relief methods to help you cope with this condition. If related to earwax buildup or infection, tinnitus can be resolved by treating the condition or removing the impaction. Other treatments like white noise machines can help you learn how to habituate to your tinnitus so that you notice it less. Tinnitus retraining therapy is often recommended to help not only the tinnitus, but to manage your emotional reactions to it in order to protect your mental health. Hearing aids can also be used to reduce tinnitus and improve your hearing beyond it.
Tinnitus can be a very difficult thing to live with, explain, or diagnose. However, if you’re concerned you might be suffering from it, it is worth visiting your hearing care provider. Not only might they be able to find the cause, but they can help you explore the range of treatments to best fight its effects.