Do you ever find yourself trying to settle into rest at the end of the day only to find that you can’t escape a ringing in your ears? It can start slow, and even come and go, but often the more you think about it the harder it is to ignore! This is tinnitus, a very common health condition for people affecting 50 million people in the Untitled States alone. While for many tinnitus comes and goes, around 20 million report symptoms so bad it is burdensome on a regular basis. Meanwhile around 2 million report tinnitus so severe it interferes with everyday functioning. Do you have tinnitus and is it bad enough to be treated as a serious issue? Here is are some guidelines to determine if your tinnitus is interfering with your daily life

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a phantom sound in the ears which seems to have no external source. It can take many forms from a roar, a ring and hum, a whoosh or even music. No one knows exactly what causes tinnitus, however 90 percent of people with tinnitus also have hearing loss. This means that a link between the two conditions is very likely. One popular theory consists of how the ears are affected by damage.

What Causes Tinnitus?

We collect sound with our ears, but for hearing to occur the sounds need to reach our brain. Our ears achieve this via tiny hair like cells called stereocilia which transform audio waves from the eardrums and ossicles into electrical impulses. Stereocilia are incredibly fragile and can be damaged by a great number of things from loud noise, impact to the head, certain medications, environmental toxins or by changes to the ears as we age. When this damage occurs, it can cause the stereocilia to send a sort of unintentional feedback to the brain which we interpret as symptoms of tinnitus.

Types of Tinnitus

Did you know there are actually two types of tinnitus? The two main kinds are subjective and objective.

Subjective tinnitus: this type is believed to be caused by damage in the outer, middle, or inner ear and can only be heard by you.

Objective tinnitus: Objective tinnitus can actually be heard by a doctor! While less common this type is caused by damage to your middle ear bone, a blood vessel problem, or muscle contractions.

The Dangers of Tinnitus

Most forms of tinnitus are permanent, however there are ways to manage conditions, so it doesn’t take over your life. In many instances a little hum in the ears can become a serious problem! What starts as a buzz at night can interrupt sleep causing chronic fatigue and make it hard to focus during the day. As the buzz arrives in the center of your consciousness it can cause stress and raise cortisol levels in a chronic way. Cortisol is the brain chemical released when fight or flight response is activated making it hard to rest and raising blood pressure overtime. This can lead to higher rates of heart attack and stroke so it’s important to manage symptoms now before they get out of hand.

Managing Symptoms

If you suspect you have tinnitus it’s often a permanent condition but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Many tactics are designed to minimize symptoms- many focusing on your reaction to the condition. For instance, a type of talk therapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on how our reaction to tinnitus and promotes different attitudes and reactions. Others find relief in more exercise, meditation, or yoga to reduce stress and lower perceived symptoms.

Meanwhile many find that covering up the problem helps. For instance, many find the use of a white noise machine or music when going to bed can help reduce how prominent it is in your consciousness allowing you to focus on getting rest. During the day, many hearing aids now offer tinnitus masking features which match the tone of many common types of tinnitus to reduce the daily distraction.

Addressing a Hearing Loss

If you have tinnitus, then addressing a hearing loss using hearing aids can help lower the stress of communication and reduce tinnitus symptoms as well. To find out if hearing aids can help you and for more tips for reducing tinnitus, don’t hesitate to reach out now to schedule a hearing exam. Contact us today!