Is Tinnitus Real

Tinnitus is very real, affecting nearly a quarter of people in the world, most commonly those with advanced age. It manifests as an internalized “ringing” in the ears, which means that no one else can hear it. 

While a hearing loss test can provide a better diagnosis of your hearing problems, it’s important to remain informed on the potential causes of your issues. There are different degrees of tinnitus, and some people can go about their lives normally without seeking treatment options. However, in some cases, the sound can be so loud or distracting that people may find themselves unable to focus or concentrate as they go about their day. 

To better understand what tinnitus is like, consider a terrible, unending electronic whine that you find incredibly annoying. Now consider that there is nothing you can do to get away from this sound, and putting your hands over your ears actually amplifies it. 

Do you see how that could be a problem?  

What Causes Tinnitus

This ailment is not something that usually appears without reason. The most common occurrences are the result of extended exposure to loud noises, such as can be found at a loud concert or when working in some areas within a factory.

This is why it is imperative to wear protective ear gear when operating heavy equipment, watching live bands play, playing drums or other loud instruments (especially in a small room), listening to loud music or television, or in any other situation where there are intense or deafening sounds or noises. Sometimes intense noise situations might be out of your control. If you happen to be in close proximity to noise, such as a bedroom next to someone playing an instrument or loud music, investing in sound proof panels might be a good option for added protection. 

It may not seem “cool” to wear earplugs or other protective equipment in some circumstances, but the cost can be exorbitant as well as permanent.

If you have ever left a concert with your ears ringing and the strange feeling that sounds are coming from far away, you have suffered damage to your eardrum. While this may go away without consequence, it can lead to hearing loss or continue, potentially for the rest of your life, as tinnitus. 

This happens because the tiny hairs within the ear that transmit sound become damaged, causing them to falsely identify a sound. This is not altogether different from how some electronics emit a high-pitched whine when they suffer damage and become broken. 

Fortunately, there are many modern varieties of ear protection that are unobtrusive and undetectable by casual observers.  

Other Possible Causes

  • Hearing loss resulting from old age
  • Certain medications can cause or strengthen tinnitus
  • Ear injuries and infections
  • Meniere’s disease (abnormal fluid pressure in the inner ear)
  • Blood vessel or other circulatory problems
  • Head trauma
  • Smoking and drinking
  • Obesity
  • Tumors within the head and neck
  • Abnormal ear bone growth

What Are the Side Effects of Tinnitus?

Other than the high-pitched whine or ringing, tinnitus can also cause miscellaneous other sounds such as roaring, hissing, clicking, or humming noises. Sometimes there may be a sudden increase in the volume for a short period of time, which can sound like part of the environment around you. 

Unfortunately, there are other side effects as well. Some of the most common include depression, increased stress and anxiety, enhanced irritability, headaches, memory problems, sleep deprivation, and in some extreme cases, suicidal thoughts.

If you or anyone you know are experiencing those types of thoughts, it’s important to get help. Dialing “988” will get you to the suicide and crisis prevention hotline and they are available 24 hours a day to help. 

Treatment Options

Unfortunately, there is not a lot that can be done to resolve tinnitus. Sometimes it fades over time or even goes away on its own, but most often people learn to tune it out.

Background noise and white noise can help make it easier to disregard, but most of the time people adjust and it only becomes noticeable on occasion or when it is very quiet. 

If tinnitus does become unbearable, it is a good idea to consult with a doctor, especially if it doesn’t improve within a week or comes after a cold or ear infection. Sometimes the issue can be resolved by treating the underlying symptoms. 

Additional Options to Alleviate Tinnitus

However, there are other options available that may help in dealing with this ailment. 

Hearing aids or cochlear implants can help bring in more outside sounds to mask the ringing. There are even similar devices that are designed to produce some form of white noise sound or soft music just above the level of the tinnitus to reduce discomfort. After all, one of the worst parts of tinnitus is that the sound is generally monotone in nature, increasing the irritation level. 

A relatively new concept is acoustic neural stimulation, which broadcasts a sound transmission within music designed to desensitize you to the ringing by gradually reconfiguring the neural circuits in the brain. 

There are also ways to reduce the side effects that may result from tinnitus. 

Counselors are available if you need someone to talk to about anxiety or depression, and there are often medications that prove helpful in dealing with these types of problems. It is always a good idea to consult with a professional and explore options available that may improve your quality of life. 

On the bright side, there are always ongoing studies seeking to find new ways to reduce or eliminate the symptoms of tinnitus. Even if current treatment methods are not working as well as you may hope, there may be something better just on the horizon. 

The Bottom Line

The old saying that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is fitting when discussing tinnitus. 

Take the time to distance yourself from loud sounds and noises, wear appropriate ear protection, and live a healthier lifestyle to reduce the chances that you may experience tinnitus. That includes avoiding smoking and eating properly, as well as exercising to reduce the enhanced risks involved. 

If you suspect any ailments relating to the inner ear or circulatory system, have them checked on by a physician as soon as possible to reduce the odds of serious damage, and if you do begin to suffer the effects of tinnitus seek professional help to determine if there is an underlying cause that can be treated.