Tinnitus is a condition in which individuals hear sounds that are not physically present. Over 50 million Americans experience some form of tinnitus from occasional episodes to chronic cases.
Tinnitus presents itself in one of two forms: subjective and objective. Subjective tinnitus is only perceptible by the affected individual and is indicative of an auditory or neurological problem. Objective tinnitus is rarer, and the ringing is audible to audiologists during an exam.
Symptoms vary, but usually include perceived sounds like:
- Rushing or whooshing
- Humming or whistling
Tinnitus has many causes
Tinnitus is not a disease itself but a symptom of other conditions like health issues, hearing damage, and hearing loss. If you experience any form of tinnitus, it’s time to check in with an audiologist or hearing specialist.
- Circulatory problems like high blood pressure can exacerbate tinnitus. The hair cells in your ears require blood flow to function. Foods that affect blood pressure, like sodium, can also affect tinnitus.
- Tumors that grow on the auditory nerve in the brain affect balance and hearing. These growths usually cause tinnitus in one ear.
- Inner ear muscle spasms and pressure can also cause tinnitus.
- Head or ear trauma can damage the inner ear or auditory nerve leading to tinnitus in one or both ears.
- Earwax build-up traps dirt and bacteria, causing infections and pressure on the eardrum that will lead to tinnitus.
- Hearing loss occurs with age, and tinnitus is a regular symptom.
- Noise damage and noise-induced hearing loss are major contributing factors to tinnitus. Once damaged, the delicate hair cells in your ears cannot recover, resulting in ringing in the ears.
Tinnitus assessments include an overall hearing evaluation because of its close association with hearing loss. You will take a series of tests that check sound matching, loudness discomfort, and masking level.
- Sounding matching involves recreating the sound of a patient’s tinnitus symptoms. You will listen to different audio, sometimes layered at different pitches, to pinpoint an exact recreation.
- The masking level is the minimum volume level required to mask your tinnitus symptoms. We measure how loud you perceive your symptoms to create appropriate masking.
- Loudness discomfort is the volume level at which external sounds become uncomfortable. This information is necessary to determine appropriate masking and sound therapy.
Hearing aids are a reliable treatment option, especially if you’re dealing with hearing loss. Aural rehabilitation uses masking devices to create constant, low-frequency white noise through your hearing devices. New technology can even detect tinnitus frequencies and mask them with audio.
Hearing Associates also offers professional and safe ear wax removal, which may help decrease your tinnitus.