Have you ever been to a very loud concert, only to leave the event with a ringing in your ears? What you probably didn’t know is that the buzzing indicates that you have a temporary case of tinnitus. Read on to learn more about this symptom.
What Is It?
About 10 percent of American adults experience tinnitus according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). Rather than being a medical condition in itself, it is actually a symptom that indicates other underlying medical conditions that have to do with the auditory system. Most of the time, it is not an indication of anything medically serious, although treatments are available for improvement. Tinnitus is not imaginary, and can be quite bothersome.
Tinnitus is usually an indication of an underlying problem within the auditory system, and can vary from the outer, middle or inner ear. It can also be caused by problems with the auditory nerves, so that the brain interprets certain nerve signals as sounds. It can also be caused by an inner ear bone condition, abnormal inner ear muscle contractions, or a blood vessel problem. Other causes of tinnitus can include:
- Exposure to loud sounds
- Hearing loss
- Head and neck trauma
- Ear wax buildup
- Certain types of tumors
- Jaw misalignment
- Thyroid disorders
- Certain medications
- Ear or sinus infections
- Hormonal changes
- Hearing loss associated with aging
- Psychological or mental conditions (such as stress, anxiety, fatigue, etc.)
There are endless causes, and sometimes, tinnitus just occurs with no obvious reason.
Signs And Symptoms
Although a “ringing in the ears” is the typical description for tinnitus, descriptions vary and differ. When it is experienced, there are no external sounds present, only a phantom one. They can also be:
Or other similar sound sensations in the ears. Other properties of tinnitus can also take form of:
- From low roars to high squeals
- Can vary in pitch
- Can occur in one or both ears
- Can become so loud that it interferes with the hearing of external sounds
- Can come and go, or be present all the time
Be sure to get your ears checked out if you experience tinnitus after an upper respiratory infection, or if dizziness and further hearing loss accompanies tinnitus.
Sometimes, tinnitus can decrease the quality of life if it is permanent and does not go away. For individuals who suffer from chronic tinnitus, there are treatment options available. Usually, treatment and alleviation of tinnitus is achieved by treating the underlying medical condition, whatever it may be. There are also other options to treat tinnitus, include:
- Hearing aids. For some, by enhancing external sounds and hearing better, awareness of tinnitus is decreased.
- Sound generators. Sound generators can help mask tinnitus by using other sounds to override the buzzing in the ear. It does not exactly function as a music player, because the sound generated is only slightly louder than the tinnitus, just enough to override the noise. They can vary from desktop generators that plays music at night, or portable and wearable aids that fits over the ear.
- Acoustic neural stimulation. This is a relatively new form of audio therapy that can help stimulate neural circuits in the brain. The ultimate goal is to help the affected individual become desensitized to the buzzing in the ear.
- Ear implants. For those who also suffer hearing loss along with tinnitus, an ear implant may be the answer, as it directly stimulates the auditory nerve so the brain can receive sounds.
Be careful of tinnitus medications sold online, as there is no proven drug so far to actually treat tinnitus straight on. A good number of them are mostly antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs that treat one of the possible causes of tinnitus, but it may not be right for you. Be sure to consult a doctor before implementing any self-medication and treatment.
The best measure you can take to help prevent against tinnitus is to protect your ears from loud sounds, as that is the most common cause of tinnitus. When the ear is exposed to extremely loud noises, sensory hair cells (also known as cilia) within the ears becomes damaged or destroyed. They are crucial cells that send signals to the auditory nerves so that the brain can interpret and differentiate sounds.
Examples of detrimental situations can range from concerts, putting your music player on full blast with earphones, or being near a bomb explosion. Unfortunately, once the hair cells have been destroyed, they are irreplaceable. Hence, be sure to always wear ear protection as appropriate and turn the volumes down.
Next time you plan to rock out at a concert, consider bringing a pair of earplugs with you to protect yourself from tinnitus.