If you hear a chirping, buzzing, hissing, or ringing sound in your ears, chances are you are one of the nearly 15 million Americans who suffers from tinnitus.  For some people, the sounds are intermittent, but for others it is a constant annoyance that seems like it will never go away.

In this blog, we’ll explain what tinnitus is and share with you some coping strategies to make tinnitus seem less intrusive and much more manageable.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus makes you hear sounds that aren’t really there. It isn’t an illness in itself, but rather a side effect of other medical conditions or circumstances. Tinnitus can sometimes be accompanied by vertigo, hearing loss, and/or ear pressure.

It can create havoc for many sufferers, interfering with their work, social life, and sleep. Understandably, this can cause irritability, anxiety, and distress.

However, the good news is that approximately 50% of sufferers have found their tinnitus to gradually diminish over time. If you have tinnitus, and find it difficult to cope with, seeing your audiologist for support and advice is highly recommended.

There are two types of tinnitus – subjective and objective.

Subjective tinnitus is the most common type. Only the person with tinnitus can hear it. There is usually a problem with the outer, middle, or inner ear. Or sometimes there is an issue with the hearing nerves, or the brain might be struggling to interpret nerve signals as sound.

Often exposure to loud music or other loud noises for an extended period of time can cause tinnitus. Other causes can include:

  • Stress/anxiety
  • Compacted earwax
  • Head injury
  • Drug use
  • A neurological disease

Objective tinnitus is a rarer form of tinnitus. With this type, your audiologist can often hear the sounds you are experiencing. It is a more serious condition and takes longer to treat. It may be caused by:

  • Blood vessel issues
  • Muscle contractions
  • Problems with the tiny bones within the middle ear structure

Treatment options

Currently, there is no cure for tinnitus. However, there are a variety of options that can help to ease the symptoms.

Cutting back on caffeine and cigarettes may provide some relief. Both of these are nerve stimulants that can raise anxiety levels thus increasing your tinnitus symptoms.

There are also a number of relaxation and distraction techniques that can help you to shift your focus away from the tinnitus. Many people find simply listening to the radio or running a fan in the background is enough to make their tinnitus less noticeable.

Sound source generators are another option to consider. There are many apps available that offer a variety of nature and environmental sounds. These can be quite effective, especially at bedtime.

Tinnitus maskers are also quite popular. A hearing aid case is fitted with a small electrical device that continuously generates noises different to your tinnitus sounds.

Managing stress, relaxation, and sleep are also key to finding some relief. With biofeedback training, you can learn how to relax your muscles and control various parts of your body. Once you can reach this state of total relaxation, the tinnitus often will subside. This can also be a great coping strategy for those times where your tinnitus spikes.

There are some medications available that could help, but just as every case of tinnitus is different, so are the results. Additionally, if you already take medication for other illnesses or conditions, it is worth checking with your doctor if tinnitus could be a side effect. Sometimes switching to a new prescription is all that’s needed for it to subside.

What’s my next step?

If you are worried that you are at risk for getting tinnitus, or you already have it and are struggling to cope, do not hesitate to contact us for further advice and treatment.

With offices in Algonquin, Elgin, and St. Charles, Fox Valley ENT strives to improve our patients’ lives. To begin your journey to better hearing, contact us today to arrange an appointment with one of our friendly audiologists.

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Joseph, T Pacer

Joe Pacer has been an Audiologist with Fox Valley Ear, Nose & Throat Associates since 1988. He received his Bachelor of Science in Communication Disorders from Northern Illinois University in 1986 where he continued and received his Master of Arts in Audiology in 1988. He is a member of the American Academy of Audiology. Joe works closely with his patients and has extensive experience performing hearing evaluation as well as recommending, fitting and trouble shooting hearing aids.