What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is noise that originates within the ear rather than from the outside environment. This may affect one or both ears.
The sounds have been described variously as a "ringing" sound, a "buzzing" sound, a "humming noise, "like running water", a "whistling" sound or like the "sound from a seashell held close to the ear."
There are several types of tinnitus:
Tonal tinnitus is often called "ringing in the ears." This type of tinnitus produces a continuous sound, like a single note playing over and over.
Pulsatile tinnitus, in which the tinnitus sounds are intermittent, continuous, or pulsating in time with the heartbeat.
Tinnitus in which the sound is a ringing, buzzing, roaring, whistling, or hissing noise.
Less common tinnitus, in which the sounds are described as beeping, Morse code type of signals, or even a musical notes.
Less common still is tinnitus experienced as several different types of noises at the same time.
In a rare, unusual type of tinnitus, known as "objective tinnitus," the noise is heard not only by the affected individual but also by others.
Other Symptoms Associated With Tinnitus
In addition to the noises associated with tinnitus, certain other symptoms may accompany this condition.
Pain in the ear
A sense of fullness in the ears
Who Gets Tinnitus?
Tinnitus may affect anyone. However, it is more common with increasing age. People who are prone to hardening of the arteries are at greater risk for tinnitus than the general population. In addition, individuals who work in noisy surroundings are also at greater risk for developing tinnitus. But in fact there are many causes for tinnitus.
Is Tinnitus Serious?
Tinnitus is typically not a serious condition; however, it is frequently accompanied by hearing loss. Many people with tinnitus are concerned that they may become completely deaf; however, tinnitus does not cause deafness.
Others fear that they have a brain tumor or that they have some form of mental illness. While possible, such underlying conditions are most unlikely and rarely found in people with tinnitus.
Is Depression Associated With Tinnitus?
Some people believe that depression produces tinnitus and if the depression is treated, their tinnitus will be relieved. Most experts believe that the opposite is more likely the case; namely, that tinnitus may cause a depression. Therefore, treatment is required for the depression.
There are effective treatments for depression, including antidepressant drugs and "talk" therapy. Some research studies suggest that certain antidepressant medications actually worsen the symptoms of tinnitus.
Nice To Know:
Objective tinnitus is a much rarer form of tinnitus and consists of head noises that are audible to other people in addition to the sufferer. The noises are usually caused by:
With objective tinnitus, an examiner can hear the sound heard by the patient by using a stethoscope. Benign problems, such as the noise from a problem with the jaw joint, openings of the eustachian tubes (the passage that connects the ear and the back of the nose), or repetitive muscle contractions may be the cause of the objective tinnitus. Other causes are the pulsing flow of blood through the carotid artery in the neck, or the continuous hum of normal blood outflow through the jugular vein.
There are two relatively tiny muscles in the middle ear attached to the tiny bones in the ear. These muscles contract briefly in response to loud or sudden noises in order to protect the inner ear from over-stimulation. On occasion, one or both of these muscles may begin to contract and relax rhythmically for no apparent reason. Because these muscles are attached to the tiny ear bones, contractions may result in repetitious clicking sounds.
In rare cases, rhythmic muscle contractions or spasms may affect one of the throat muscles attached to the eustachian tube. This is called palatal myoclonus and often produces an annoying clicking noise.
In some very severe cases, objective tinnitus may be an early sign of increased pressure in the fluid that surrounds that brain and spinal cord (cerebrospinal fluid). A pulsating sound may result from a blocked artery, an aneurysm, a tumor in a blood vessel, or other blood vessel disorders.
Facts About Tinnitus
Tinnitus and hearing
Tinnitus and hearing
Tinnitus is often associated with hearing loss. Many people with tinnitus are not aware of their hearing loss. People with hearing loss can better hear tinnitus because they perceive less external noise due to their hearing loss. Often the pitch of the tinnitus is equal to the pitch of the hearing loss.
Hearing aids can bring tinnitus relief. They can help in many different ways. Hearing aids improve hearing. This reduces the stress associated with the need to carefully listen. The reduction in stress makes it easier to accommodate to the tinnitus. Hearing aids amplify background sounds, and for many people this partial masking reduces the loudness or prominence of the tinnitus.
In a recent study we determined the following with respect to the use of hearing aids in mitigating the effects of tinnitus:
- 27.8% of hearing aid users reported receiving moderate to substantial reduction in their tinnitus when using their hearing aids.
- Two out of three people experienced tinnitus relief most of the time to all of the time, while three out of ten (29%) reported the use of hearing aids alleviated their tinnitus all of the time
- Subjects who had their hearing aids fit by hearing health professionals, who used a more comprehensive hearing aid fitting protocol, are nearly twice as likely to experience tinnitus relief than people fit by hearing health professionals who used a minimalist hearing aid fitting protocol.
If you think you need hearing aids in addition to the concerns about your tinnitus, you should see a hearing health professional. By all means ask if they are skilled in the management of tinnitus. There are adjustments to a hearing aid that can be made to maximize the benefit provided someone with tinnitus. For example, some report that loud sounds make their tinnitus worse. Hearing aids can be adjusted to reduce the chances of this happening.
Thoughts and emotions
Thoughts and emotions
How do you think about your tinnitus?
- Do you think it will ruin your life?
- Do you think you will never be able to get to sleep?
- Do you think no one else really understands tinnitus?
- Do you think nothing can be done?
The way you think about your tinnitus will influence your emotional reaction to it. Thoughts like this might naturally lead to feelings of annoyance, depression, anxiety or anger. Tinnitus does not have to interfere with your enjoyment of life.
Several counseling-based approaches, such as Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Mindfulness Therapy, have been helpful to many with tinnitus.
You can change the way you think about and react to your tinnitus!
Tinnitus and your environment
Tinnitus and your environment
Bystanders can't hear the sounds that someone with tinnitus has. It can therefore be difficult for the people in your area to take the complaints seriously. After all, they can't see or hear a cause for the tinnitus.
Hence, a good communication with the people in your area is important so they can understand your symptoms. It is wise to explain to your surroundings what tinnitus means to you. You can tell what sounds you hear and if they get worse or better.
Perhaps you are having troubles falling asleep due to the tinnitus and you're irritable from lack of sleep. It is good if your area knows that you are more tired by the annoying noises and can take less than before.
It is very important to explain this kind of "side effects" of tinnitus because your environment can only consider you if they known what problems you are experiencing due to your tinnitus. If it happens that someone ignores you, try again to explain what the tinnitus is for you. Remember that your complaint is not only stressful for you , but also for your environment.
Also ask the people around you how stressful your tinnitus is for them. Show that you understand this and keep that in mind.
The good news
The good news is that you can learn to have a good, happy free life even with your tinnitus.
In the next 5 days we will learn you how to deal with your tinnitus in a positive way. Read the next chapter to learn the 3 buildings blocks of overwinning your tinnitus. THis will be the start of your tinnitus free future.