Signs You May Have Tinnitus

Signs You May Have Tinnitus

In Uncategorized by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A
Latest posts by Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)

If you’ve ever experienced the phenomenon of hearing a ringing or other phantom noise in your ear, you are not alone. Perceiving these sounds is called “tinnitus” and it is a very common hearing issue. Around one in three adults have experienced some form of tinnitus, and that rate increases steeply for people with existing hearing loss to an over 75% rate of tinnitus. 

Tinnitus can be an occasional occurrence or a constant inconvenience, and can be present at a faint volume or be disruptively loud. While tinnitus is most commonly described as a ringing in the ear, the actual perceived sound can vary quite a bit. Similarly, while all tinnitus is indicative of hearing damage, the underlying cause of tinnitus may vary from individual to individual. Because of these variables, there is no singular treatment or cure for tinnitus, but the condition can be effectively managed using a variety of techniques. If tinnitus is getting in the way of your daily life, talk with your hearing specialist about hearing solutions that can help. 

Sound With No Source

Many people have their first experience with tinnitus after a concert or loud event. Tinnitus leaves the impression of an echoing sound in the ear after the music or noise has stopped. Unfortunately this is a response from the delicate sensory cells in your inner ear malfunctioning and misfiring sound signals to the brain because they have been damaged and stressed. 

Tinnitus is often reported as sounding “tonal” but can also resemble a variety of other noises. Tinnitus may sound like hissing or static, or like crashing waves or a fluctuating roar. Some tinnitus resembles clicks or pulsing sounds. The phantom noises you hear could also take the shape of a buzzing or humming. 

A frustrating aspect of tinnitus is that you are hearing a sound that is not being heard by anyone else. In almost all cases of tinnitus, there is no perceivable sound that can be heard by anyone besides the person with tinnitus. The exception to this is a condition called otosclerosis in which the bones of the middle ear generate noises that can be faintly detected by a hearing professional. While over 50 million people live with tinnitus, less than 6% of cases are caused by otosclerosis. 

Causes of Tinnitus

All tinnitus is related to hearing damage and should be taken seriously when it occurs. One of the most common causes of tinnitus is loud noise. Dangerously loud noise volumes can easily cause permanent damage to delicate components of the inner ear, provoking tinnitus. Infection or blockages in the ear canal have the potential to cause tinnitus, as can some chronic health conditions such as heart disease. Even certain medications can bring about tinnitus as a side effect. For those with recurring tinnitus, stress and lack of sleep can make symptoms occur more frequently.

Just as the likelihood of hearing loss increases with age, so does the risk of tinnitus. Most new cases of tinnitus occur in adults over age 55. Aging represents both the accrual of permanent hearing damage throughout our lifetime and an increasing vulnerability of the auditory system to harm. 

Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

If you live with hearing loss, your risk of experiencing tinnitus greatly increases. Existing hearing damage can contribute to the occurrence and severity of tinnitus. Worse still, tinnitus can get in the way of comprehending speech. When hearing is already limited, this can be especially frustrating. 

Another factor is that while hearing loss makes some frequencies of incoming sound seem muted or muffled, those challenging sounds may be pushed into the background while the perceived tinnitus sound gets to take center stage. This can make it even more difficult to hear others while coping with prominent tinnitus. 

While tinnitus treatment can be approached in many different ways, those with both hearing loss and tinnitus are often helped through the use of hearing aids. Hearing aids can help amplify challenging incoming sound frequencies to volumes that suppress tinnitus noise. Some hearing aids also come with enhancements specifically designed to help manage tinnitus. 

Treating Tinnitus

If tinnitus has started to interfere with your daily life, don’t wait – it is time to seek help! Contact us today to schedule an appointment. We may be able to detect issues contributing to your tinnitus and can help you decide on the tinnitus treatment plan best for you.