Tinnitus is a common disorder suffered by millions of people worldwide who largely report hearing “phantom sounds.” Descriptions of what tinnitus sounds like vary, but if you have experienced these sensations, the following descriptive words probably sound familiar: swooshing, pulsing, hissing, buzzing, clanging, ringing, and roaring.
Patients with tinnitus often report that the noises make it impossible to concentrate and in many cases can also cause insomnia, mood changes, and other unwelcome side effects.
Types of Tinnitus
People suffering from tinnitus can be diagnosed with either objective or subjective forms of the symptoms. Nearly 95% of all tinnitus cases are subjective, meaning that the patients are the only ones who can hear the sounds in their ears or head, while the remaining 5% hear sounds that are detectable by other people. While tinnitus remains somewhat of a mystery in the medical community, most theories suggest that it begins as an abnormality of the auditory or neural systems.
Causes of Tinnitus
Well-documented causes of tinnitus include:
- Being exposed to excessively loud noises
- Hearing loss due to aging
- An ear canal blocked by earwax buildup or a foreign object
- Abnormal bone growth inside the ear
- Water or fluid trapped in the ear
Less common reasons for developing tinnitus include:
- Depression and overwhelming stress
- Acoustic neuroma, a benign tumor affecting the cranial nerve
- Jaw disorders such as TMJ, or temporomandibular disorder
- Head or neck injury
- Meniere’s Disease
Other conditions which may lead to development of tinnitus include:
- High blood pressure
- Cholesterol buildup in blood vessels
- Thyroid conditions
- Tumors that form in the head or neck
- Medications such as aspirin, antibiotics, diuretics, malarial medications, and medications used in the treatment of cancer
Coping with Tinnitus
Sometimes the development of tinnitus cannot be avoided, but there is still much you can do to prevent the aggravation of your state. It is recommended that objects such as cotton swabs and ear droppers should never be used inside the ear canal. Inserting anything into the ear may result in packing ear wax deeper inside the ear and against the ear drum. It is also highly recommended that if you work in a profession where loud noises are a daily occurrence, such as the automotive or music industry, ear plugs should be used to lower the amount of noise you are exposed to. Ear plugs are also a good idea when attending music concerts, hunting, lawn mowing, attending certain sporting events, and even while using noisy appliances such as hair dryers.
Other ways to avoiding developing tinnitus include taking care of your health. Exercising on a regular basis to keep your cardiovascular health optimal is an important way to prevent blood vessel disorders that can cause tinnitus. Taking precautions to avoid injury when playing sports is also recommended. If you do experience tinnitus, seeking early medical attention to determine the cause may help you avoid years of suffering from this unrelenting disorder.