That constant ringing in your ears nobody else hears? It is very real, it's not in your head, and it is totally treatable using sound therapy, hearing aids and CBT! There is always hope...
Tinnitus is a ringing sensation in your ears. It refers to perception of some sound in the ears even when there is no external sound source. This sensation could be in one or both the ears. It can sound in different ways including hissing, roaring and buzzing. It often gets worse by the night, as there are little to no sounds in the environment to mask the tinnitus. Tinnitus is not a disorder by itself, but rather, a symptom occurring due to several reasons.
Some causes of tinnitus are:
Wax impacted in the ear canal
Exposure to loud sounds
High blood pressure
Certain types of tumours
Too much of caffeine
Tinnitus is of two types:
Subjective tinnitus- where only you can hear the ringing sound in your ears, and cannot be perceived by others around you. This is the most common type of tinnitus.
Objective tinnitus- the ringing you hear can also be heard by those around you. This type of tinnitus is rare and occurs when there is a glomus jugular tumour or a vascular problem (problem in blood circulation).
Tinnitus can also vary in severity. Some people may not find tinnitus bothersome and only hear it when their surroundings are very quiet. On the other hand, some people may find tinnitus extremely bothersome and frustrating. Some even have suicidal thoughts because of their tinnitus!
If you feel that your tinnitus is bothering you, consult a doctor. Your doctor will be able to find out if any other medical issue is causing tinnitus. You will also need to get your hearing tested, as hearing loss can also cause tinnitus. So, a hearing test can shed more light on the cause of tinnitus and in planning treatment for the same.
When you consult the audiologist, you may be asked to describe your tinnitus – what kind of sound you hear, whether you hear it in both ears or only one, if you always hear it or only hear at certain times, if it is a continuous sound or a pulsatile sound, etc. You may also be asked to match the pitch and loudness of your tinnitus from a range of sound your audiologist gives. This gives them an idea regarding the nature of your tinnitus, as it cannot be measured objectively.
Finding out the cause of the tinnitus and addressing the cause can most often make tinnitus better (less perceptible). Unfortunately, the exact cause of tinnitus is unknown in most individuals. In that case, treatment options such as counselling, sound therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be explored. If tinnitus is present along with hearing loss, hearing aids would be effective in not only helping you hear, but also in alleviating your tinnitus. Hearing aids also have tinnitus maskers of different types and frequencies. Such tinnitus maskers are also available of MP3 players and mobile phone applications, and can be used to manage tinnitus in the form of sound therapy. This approach is effective because, an external sound can mask the perception of tinnitus in some individuals, as tinnitus occurs in the absence of sound reaching the brain. However, it is important to note that treatment for tinnitus is individual specific and a detailed evaluation by your doctor and your audiologist can help them make a decision in selecting the best treatment approach for you.
Tinnitus is something that is commonly perceived by a large number of people, and does not always mean that there is a serious problem with your hearing or your brain. It is easily diagnosable and manageable once you consult the right professionals.
Tinnitus is not the end of the world. There is always hope!
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