The definition of the word tinnitus is “a tinkling or ringing like a bell.” While that may sound lovely and musical, for people who deal with tinnitus, it is anything but. Imagine being constantly aware of a sound in your ear when there is no sound. That is a more accurate definition for tinnitus sufferers.
Tinnitus is diagnosed when someone hears sound without a source, but there are actually a variety of sounds that can occur with this condition. The Mayo Clinic advises patients to use the following guide to determine which noise they are hearing to help their healthcare provider try to determine the root cause.
There are plenty of theories, across many areas of the body (auditory, circulatory, head/neck), about what causes tinnitus. The most common causes are exposure to loud noises, age-related hearing loss, and earwax blockage. Another possible cause of tinnitus is damage to the very delicate hair cells of the inner ear. These hair cells are absolutely crucial to hearing health because they react to sound waves and release electrical signals to be sent to the brain for processing. Some doctors believe that the hair cells may release errant signals if damaged, resulting in unexplained and unwanted noises. Damage to these miniscule cells is irreversible and can eventually lead to permanent hearing loss, so talk to your doctor about any early signs of hearing loss or tinnitus.
Treatment options for persistent tinnitus vary widely since the causes vary widely. In some cases, ear wax removal or treatment of a circulatory issue can eliminate the noise once a doctor identifies the right underlying cause. When the cause cannot be identified and corrected, treatment focuses on methods to suppress the unwanted sound like white noise machines or hearing aids. Hearing aids can be programmed to block out tinnitus by producing background noise and have the added benefit of treating any hearing loss that may accompany tinnitus.
Schedule an appointment with us for a hearing health consultation or to discuss any unexplained noises impacting your hearing abilities or comfort.