At some point most people have experienced tinnitus- an umbrella term for intrusive noises (like ringing, buzzing, clicking or static) that interfere with your hearing. Having ringing ears after attending a rock concert, fireworks or other loud event is very common. Tinnitus can be near constant, or it can come and go. It can be an annoying low sound in the background of your hearing or it can seem overwhelmingly loud.
While the form of tinnitus and the cause of tinnitus can vary from person to person, almost all tinnitus is caused by damage to the auditory system. Severe tinnitus is strongly linked to permanent hearing loss, and, like permanent hearing loss, there is no cure, though it can be effectively managed through various therapies. When finding long-lasting and effective treatment, it is important to understand the underlying health changes that are causing tinnitus.
What Causes Tinnitus?
The cause of tinnitus will vary from person to person. The intrusive sounds of tinnitus can be brought on by infection, obstructions in the ear canal, bodily injury or even certain medications. While there are many possibilities, there are two underlying causes of tinnitus that we see far more than any others, and both are linked to permanent, or sensorineural, hearing loss.
Age-Related Hearing Loss (Presbycusis)
As your body ages, the small components of your auditory system become less resilient to permanent damage. The result is that significant hearing loss becomes much more likely as you age, and alongside it, the risk of intrusive tinnitus. Make a habit of scheduling regular hearing exams, especially after age 55, when the risk of presbycusis begins to increase.
Noise-Related Hearing Loss
Tinnitus is also very common for those with noise-related hearing loss. Being exposed to harmful noise levels takes a lasting toll on your hearing, damaging the delicate cells in your inner ear. Noise related hearing damage is cumulative, meaning that the injury to your hearing is never recovered or repaired. Noise exposure can lead to gradual or rapid permanent hearing loss and the damage to the auditory system is often accompanied by tinnitus.
Who’s At Risk?
A broad swath of the population experiences tinnitus. In a given year, one in ten people will experience some form of tinnitus. While tinnitus can happen to anyone, it is especially prevalent in people who have work or leisure activities that regularly expose them to loud noise. Some examples of at-risk professions include:
- Factory Workers
- Airport Workers
- Active Duty Military and Veterans
Hobbies such as motorcycle riding, recreational shooting and going to live concerts can also lead to an increased risk of developing tinnitus. If you often find yourself around loud noises, whether for work or pleasure, you need to protect your hearing.
How Do You Treat Tinnitus?
A nuanced approach to treating tinnitus will help minimize the impact it has in your life. We look for solutions that address tinnitus’ underlying causes while fitting into your lifestyle. Even though there is no single solution to tinnitus, our guidance can help you reduce the disruption tinnitus causes in your daily life while improving your hearing health.
The first step to managing your tinnitus is getting a hearing exam. Hearing exams don’t just test your hearing ability, they are a comprehensive look at your auditory system and can address any hearing health issue you may be experiencing. Let us know if you are having issues with tinnitus and we can help you find the best path to move forward.
Don’t let tinnitus get in the way of living your life. Contact us today to learn more.