Tinnitus is a very serious condition that can create feelings of hopelessness in patients. The symptoms can be overwhelming and are all-consuming for some sufferers. Tinnitus consists of ongoing phantom auditory noises that are not dependant on the surrounding environment. These background sounds can include buzzing, chirping, whistling, ringing, grinding, clicking, humming, hissing, and roaring. In addition, tinnitus can also be more noticeable at night when there is no background sound to conceal it.
In rare cases, the sound beats in sync with your heart (pulsatile tinnitus)
In 95% of cases, the noises in the head or ear are only perceived by the individual.
In contrast, objective tinnitus occurs when the perception of sounds is generated by sources within the body that are transmitted to the ear and can sometimes be heard by an examiner during auscultation (i.e., listening to sounds from the heart, lungs and other organs)
Tinnitus is different for everyone
People often have different experiences with tinnitus. Some cases are very serious with background sounds being loud and constant. However, there are also cases in which it is in one or both ears, from a distance or entirely in their head. In less severe instances it may operate at a lower volume and come and go. Alternatively, it can be an ongoing loud, constant background noise.
Approximately 37% or 9.2 million Canadians have experienced tinnitus.
What causes tinnitus?
Tinnitus is caused by hearing loss, earwax blockage, long term exposure to loud noises via listening devices, working in loud environments, teeth grinding, neck tension, jaw clenching, depression, and ear bone changes. Also, medications such as aspirin, antidepressants, antibiotics, cancer drug treatments, tricyclic antidepressants, antimalarial drugs, and anti-inflammatory drugs that are non-steroidal can cause tinnitus when taken in high dosages. In some instances, tinnitus goes away once the medication is stopped.
There is also a strong relationship between hearing loss and tinnitus. This is one of the main reasons that tinnitus is more common in people over the age of 55 who are more likely to have age-related hearing loss. For instance, 90% of people with tinnitus have a noise-induced hearing loss of some kind. Specifically, with hearing loss, there are fewer sounds reaching the brain from the environment. In response, the brain tends to go through neuroplastic changes and begins to change how it perceives certain sounds. The end result is tinnitus.
A number of medical conditions can cause tinnitus including high blood pressure, circulatory disease, autoimmune disease, allergies, anemia, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and an underactive thyroid gland. It is important to monitor your health on an annual basis.
Tinnitus is also connected to stress, depression, anxiety, irritation, and insomnia. Unfortunately, there is also a relationship between tinnitus and suicide.
If you do have tinnitus it is important to have a healthy lifestyle that can keep your symptoms in check. Be aware that this condition escalates with alcohol consumption and smoking.
Tinnitus Symptom Treatment
There is no cure for tinnitus. Therefore, it is important to focus on your health, including both your mental and physical states. Tinnitus is managed through hearing loss management (hearing aids), sound therapy, and cognitive behavioural therapy. Book your appointment with a physician and Doctor of Audiology if you are experience tinnitus.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, Stats Canada