Tinnitus is a condition in which people experience a frustrating ringing or buzzing sound though no external source is present. If you struggle with tinnitus you are not alone. More than 50 million Americans deal with tinnitus, and the recurring ringing in the ears that can span from irritating to debilitating. While there is no cure for tinnitus there are some treatments that can reduce symptoms for some people.
What Causes Tinnitus?
The most common cause of tinnitus is damage and loss of the tiny sensory hair cells in the cochlea of the inner ear called cilia. This is common as people age or if they experience noise induced hearing damage from work or recreation. When people are subjected to exposure to damaging levels of noise at work this can add up to an exasperating condition. If people use power tools, even a household lawnmower and weed whackers then tinnitus can ensue. If you attend loud music events or nightclubs then the decibel level might be enough to create a serious case of tinnitus. Long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 dBA can cause hearing loss and tinnitus. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for noise induced hearing loss and associated tinnitus to occur.
How to Identify the Noise in your Head
Because the listener experiences tinnitus subjectively it is a hard affliction to treat. While some people describe tinnitus as a high-pitched ringing, others may describe it as a buzz, whirl or scratching. Everybody experiences tinnitus differently.
Making Tinnitus Tangible
Because it is so hard to describe your particular sounds tinnitus may take for you scientists have found it useful to help you reproduce the sound of your tinnitus so that others understand what you’re hearing. Daniel Polley, director of the Lauer Tinnitus Research Center at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear and his colleagues have created a machine that allows you to control pitch, loudness, and other acoustic features to reproduce the sound your tinnitus may take inside your head. While this is helpful more research is needed to isolate the form, your particular tinnitus may take. The results of hearing tests in tandem with measurements of electrical activity in the brain and pupil movement in the eyes are programmed into a computer to further explore your particular form of tinnitus.
“We’re measuring what makes someone with tinnitus different from someone without tinnitus. Then we use artificial intelligence to find a signature that identifies the presence of tinnitus. Our goal is to identify a physical representation of this phantom sound.”
The goal of this is to eventually help researchers understand what changes physically when tinnitus comes and goes. While this process is far from being achieved it is hoped that if we can understand why tinnitus occurs in the brain then we may be able to regenerate and restore hearing signals from the ear to the brain. Private biotech companies are very interested in this approach as well as it could mean the end of a very aggravating condition.
While the promise of reprogramming the brain to eliminate tinnitus sounds promising we are just in the preliminary stages of research. It is common for tinnitus to be brought on by stress and for stress to cause tinnitus.
Currently Cognitive behavioral therapy has been used to reduce stress, redirect anxiety and reduce negativity that can be brought on by tinnitus.
A holistic approach, which reduces stress, is to treat tinnitus by practicing yoga, tai chi or meditate. What ever works for you to reduce stress will go far in dealing with your tinnitus. Exercise that contributes significantly to your overall well being has been found to help people manage stress, sleep better, and stay healthier.
Because most people develop tinnitus as a symptom of hearing loss hearing aids are used to improve hearing, which has been found to also reduce tinnitus symptoms. If you have tinnitus, you may find that the better you hear, the less you notice your tinnitus. If you have tinnitus, you may find that the better you hear, the less you notice your tinnitus. If tinnitus is starting to wear on your last nerve than it is important to act now and find the treatment for your tinnitus that bests works for you.