Tinnitus is a widespread health concern characterized by the perception of sound or noise in the ears without any external source. It is not a standalone disease but a symptom of an underlying health condition. Tinnitus affects between 15% and 20% of people worldwide and is especially prevalent among older adults.
Tinnitus manifests differently in different individuals. You may perceive phantom noises in one or both ears or even inside your head. The nature of these sounds can vary greatly, including ringing, buzzing, humming, clicking, or hissing. Some people may experience low or high pitched sounds that may be soft or loud. These sounds may be continuous or intermittent. In some rare instances, people experience a rhythmic pulsing or whooshing sound that syncs with their heartbeat. This is known as pulsatile tinnitus.
While some individuals may not find tinnitus bothersome, others may experience significant disruption in their daily lives due to these sounds. If you find your tinnitus bothersome or it starts affecting your quality of life, it is advisable to consult a doctor. Tinnitus can significantly impact an individual's quality of life. People with tinnitus may experience fatigue, stress, sleep problems, trouble concentrating, memory problems, depression, anxiety, irritability, headaches, and problems with work and family life. Treating these linked conditions may not directly impact tinnitus but can help individuals feel better.
If your tinnitus develops after an upper respiratory infection like a cold and does not improve within a week, you should see your doctor. Immediate medical attention is recommended if you experience hearing loss, dizziness, anxiety, or depression along with tinnitus.
Tinnitus is usually a symptom of an underlying condition, and identifying this cause is critical for effective treatment. Here are a few common causes:
While the above are the most common causes, several other conditions can also lead to tinnitus. These include Meniere's disease, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, acoustic neuroma, blood vessel disorders, and other chronic conditions such as diabetes, thyroid problems, migraines, anemia, and autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
While anyone can experience tinnitus, certain factors can increase your risk. These include loud noise exposure, age, male gender, and certain health problems like obesity, cardiovascular problems, high blood pressure, a history of arthritis, or head injury. Tobacco and alcohol use can further increase the risk of developing tinnitus.
While tinnitus is often the result of something that can't be prevented, certain precautions can help prevent certain kinds of tinnitus. These include using hearing protection, turning down the volume of loud music, taking care of your cardiovascular health, and limiting alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.
Often, tinnitus can't be completely cured. However, certain adjustments can make the symptoms less bothersome. These include using hearing protection, turning down the volume of loud music, using white noise, and limiting alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. Support groups and education about tinnitus can be helpful in coping with the condition. Stress management techniques, such as relaxation therapy and exercise, may also provide some relief.
When you visit your doctor for tinnitus, be prepared to provide a detailed account of your symptoms, medical history, and any medications you take. Your doctor is likely to ask you a series of questions to diagnose and effectively treat your condition.
Evanston Audiology is here to help you navigate the challenges of tinnitus. We offer effective treatment strategies, including fitting hearing aids and sound therapy, to help manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our experienced team of audiologists.