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It is estimated that 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus, a medical condition that manifests as a persistent ringing, whooshing, or swishing sound in your ear.
Because the sound originates from inside the ear, people suffering from tinnitus may feel like an ocean is roaring inside their head.
If you want to get an idea of what a person with tinnitus hears, check the American Tinnitus Association’s Sounds of Tinnitus.
The ringing in your ear that you may experience after a concert is an example of temporary, or short-term, tinnitus. But for millions of people, the condition is more severe, and they suffer from chronic tinnitus. It is quite common among people who are above the age of 55 and is a strong indicator of hearing loss.
Causes of tinnitus
We still don’t know exactly what causes tinnitus, but there are several likely factors. It can be caused by ear disorders such as:
- Earwax buildup, a perforated eardrum, or something touching the eardrum
- Infection, allergies, otosclerosis, or tumors in the middle ear
- Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) due to exposure to loud noise, Meniere’s disease, or aging
- Trauma to the head or neck, neck misalignment, and TMJ disorders
- Systemic conditions such as diabetes, vascular disorders, thyroid dysfunction, or low blood pressure
Tinnitus can also be a result of anti-inflammatory medication, antidepressants, sedatives, and certain antibiotics.
Many tinnitus patients also have hearing loss, but a ringing or swishing sound in your ear doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re losing your hearing.
What should you do if you have tinnitus?
The first thing to do is to visit your primary care physician who will check for excess ear wax buildup in the ear canal or other medical conditions and medications that may be causing the problem. An ENT specialist can examine your neck, head, and ears and also test your hearing to determine if you have hearing loss along with tinnitus. If there is a serious problem, you may be required to consult an audiologist who will do further testing to evaluate the extent of hearing loss and tinnitus.
What can help?
There is no single cure for the condition, but it can be effectively managed by working with a hearing care professional (HCP) who will develop a personalized treatment plan for you. With the help of advanced hearing aid technology and the expert guidance of your HCP, you will learn how to deal with the persistent annoyance of tinnitus. Don’t worry if you have hearing loss also along with tinnitus: According to the Better Hearing Institute, 27.8% of hearing aid users reported a substantial reduction in tinnitus by using hearing aids while also improving their hearing.
Improving your overall well-being will also make it easier for you to cope with the condition. Relaxation, exercise, and healthy eating are always recommended.