What is tinnitus?If you’ve ever heard a ringing, buzzing, or another strange sound, you’re not alone. More than 45 million people in the United States report that these noises plague their ears on the regular, seemingly out of nowhere. To an audiology specialist, this irritating or even debilitating symptom indicates a very specific condition: tinnitus.  

At Hearing Unlimited, we believe no patient should feel like they’re in the dark about what’s happening in their ears -- a lack of understanding can lead to fear, confusion, or even a hesitancy to receive the treatment you need. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive from patients who fear they may be suffering from tinnitus:

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is an auditory condition characterized by a ringing, buzzing, or other phantom sounds in the ears. Tinnitus is not itself a disease, but it can be a symptom of several underlying conditions of the ears, or even the brain. While ringing is among the most common noises associated with tinnitus, not everyone experiences the condition this way: some people hear buzzing, rustling as if there were a breeze nearby, birdlike chirping noises, rushing noises that sound like water, or even whispering sounds that may resemble voices. Tinnitus is often accompanied by hearing loss as well, increasing the danger it poses to your auditory system.

In a large number of reported tinnitus cases, the cause can be traced back to damage taken to the ear or the auditory system. In these cases, your brain sends a message to your inner ear to produce a response to this damage in the form of a phantom sound. This phenomenon is known as a sensorineural reaction.

Is ear damage the only cause of tinnitus?

While trauma or damage is a common reason for patients to suffer from tinnitus, there are numerous other causes which must be ruled out as part of your diagnosis. These causes include:

  • Long term noise exposure
  • Damage from a single loud event
  • Pressure caused by a blockage in the middle ear
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder 
  • Head and neck trauma
  • Dental issues 
  • Ototoxicity 
  • Smoking

If any of the above factors seem familiar to you, it’s time to visit your audiologist to receive an accurate diagnosis for the ringing in your ears, as it’s likely you’re living with tinnitus. 

Am I at risk for developing tinnitus?

Anyone can develop tinnitus for any of the reasons listed above. However, there are a few aspects that can make certain individuals’ risk of developing tinnitus higher than that of others. Take note of the following factors that may increase your risk of tinnitus:

  • Men are more likely to develop tinnitus than women.
  • White people are more likely to develop tinnitus than those of other races.
  • Tinnitus is more common with age, especially if age-related hearing loss is already present.
  • Having a blood vessel disorder can increase your risk.
  • Being overweight can also put you at a higher risk for tinnitus.

If I think I have tinnitus, what should I do?

If you believe you may be showing signs of tinnitus, and your symptoms aren’t going away, it’s important that you schedule an appointment with your audiologist to address the problem as soon as possible. As we’ve discussed, tinnitus is a red flag for a number of underlying conditions that should never be left untreated, including progressive hearing loss. Additionally, tinnitus itself can have a number of detrimental effects on your overall quality of life. Those who suffer from prolonged tinnitus symptoms tend to notice that their emotional wellness, concentration, and ability to sleep have begun to deteriorate. In severe cases, tinnitus can even increase your risk of depression, PTSD, and anxiety and rage. 

At Hearing Unlimited, we offer several treatment options for patients with tinnitus and adjacent hearing difficulties. However, there are also ways you can prevent tinnitus from affecting you in the first place. In next month’s blog, we’ll discuss what you can do to protect your ears from trauma that may cause this irritating, and even debilitating condition.

If your current audiologist has made the difficult decision to close their doors, call Hearing Unlimited. Although we are closed to walk-ins, we are open for normal hours of operation, and we are following strict protocols to keep our environment safe while we continue to serve our patients.

The audiologists at Hearing Unlimited have the expertise to help you maintain your hearing health and prevent injury during this crucial time. Get your healthy hearing plan started today - contact us online or by phone to schedule an appointment, and be sure to take advantage of our services and resources.