Tinnitus: What Is It?

Feb 05, 2019
Tinnitus: What Is It?

If you’ve ever heard sounds that aren’t really there — perhaps a buzzing, hissing, whooshing, humming, roaring, clicking or ringing in your ears — you may be suffering from tinnitus, and chances are you’re looking for tinnitus relief.

To most of the population, tinnitus sounds are objectively quiet — almost imperceptibly so — but they can be very loud to the person who hears them, and they can lead to the hearer experiencing a strong negative emotion. While the hearer may try to ignore it, they often fail and find themselves instead of focusing on it, harming their ability to filter out irrelevant noises and to pay attention to what’s going on in the world or conversation around them.

Though it’s subjective, meaning only the person experiencing can hear it, tinnitus is very much real. MRI scans have demonstrated that the brain of someone with tinnitus truly is receiving sound signals, or at least is responding as though it is, even when those sounds cannot be measured objectively.

Who Experiences Tinnitus Symptoms?

Most people will experience tinnitus symptoms at some time in their lives. It often occurs after exposure to a loud noise — spending time in a crowd at a sporting event or rock concert, for example — and can last for several hours depending on the volume and length of time of the noise. Other times, it happens randomly for no apparent reason and may last only a few moments. In either of those circumstances, experiencing tinnitus is normal and nothing to be concerned about.

Other times, tinnitus can be brought on by other factors such as stress; as their stress goes up, so does their tinnitus — and hearing loss can in turn increase stress and tinnitus, making it difficult to find tinnitus relief.

Approximately 10 to 15 percent of the population has experienced some form of tinnitus, in one or both ears. About 12 million people seek medical help for tinnitus in the United States each year. About 85 percent of people with tinnitus also experience some form of hearing loss.

What Causes Tinnitus?

While tinnitus can begin without warning, it can also build over time. There isn’t one single known cause of tinnitus, but these are a few of the possible causes:

  • Material in the ear (such as earwax) that causes sounds within the head to seem louder
  • Trauma or stress
  • Hearing loss — 80 percent of those suffering from hearing loss also experience tinnitus
  • Ear infections, fluid or other conditions in the middle ear or eardrum
  • High blood pressure and/or hardened arteries
  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Diseases of the ear
  • Medications
  • Stress and chemicals in the body
  • Brain conditions (such as tumors or aneurysms)

Do Hearing Aids Help Tinnitus?

While there is no cut-and-dry, one-size-fits-all treatment for tinnitus relief, addressing the cause of tinnitus can help relieve the symptoms. Many people wonder, “Do hearing aids help tinnitus?” and the answer for many tinnitus cases is yes.

Hearing aids for tinnitus can be effective because they address the underlying problem — hearing loss — to help relieve tinnitus symptoms. Hearing aids for tinnitus can also offer relief because many can be programmed to create different sounds to mask symptoms of tinnitus.

In cases of chronic tinnitus that doesn’t respond to other treatments such as hearing aids for tinnitus, therapies such as sound therapy can be helpful. They help tinnitus sufferers learn to redirect their attention to other sounds when they’re experiencing tinnitus symptoms, helping the tinnitus blend into the background and become less noticeable. Some forms of sound therapy include the use of hearing aids for tinnitus.

Getting Help for Tinnitus

Meeting with an audiologist can help you get a diagnosis and explore treatment options for tinnitus relief, including hearing aids for tinnitus, medications, therapy and other approaches to reduce tinnitus symptoms and restore normal auditory experiences.

Tinnitus Talk

Online support communities such as Tinnitus Talk, which is hosted by TinnitusHub, gives people affected by tinnitus a place to share their experience with tinnitus and learn from others. Tinnitus Talk currently has more than 27,000 members and 25,000 discussions. Topics under general discussion include on Tinnitus Talk include introductions, research news, treatments, alternative treatments and research, support.

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