Tinnitus

Understanding the problem is half the battle.

What is Tinnitus?

Each year about 1 in 10 adults nationwide has an episode of tinnitus that lasts longer than 3 months. Tinnitus isn’t a disease. Instead, it’s a symptom that something is wrong with your auditory system. The problem may exist somewhere in your ear, in the nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain or in the parts of the brain that make sense of sounds.

Because tinnitus can arise from so many conditions, ranging from hearing loss to high blood pressure to medications, diagnosing the cause or causes can be a challenge. For many people, the ringing in their ears begins for no obvious reason.

What Causes Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a symptom that something is wrong in the auditory system. Something as simple as a piece of earwax blocking the ear canal can cause tinnitus. But it can also be the result of a number of health conditions, such as:

  • Noise-induced hearing loss
  • Ear and sinus infections
  • Diseases of the heart or blood vessels
  • Ménière’s disease
  • Brain tumors
  • Hormonal changes in women
  • Thyroid abnormalities

Tinnitus Treatments

Hearing Aids

Hearing aids often are helpful for people who have hearing loss along with tinnitus. Using a hearing aid adjusted to carefully control outside sound levels may make it easier for you to hear. The better you hear, the less you may notice your tinnitus. 

Counseling

Most counseling programs have an educational component The programs are designed to help you understand what goes on in the brain to cause tinnitus and will help you to change the way you think about and react to your tinnitus. 

Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants can be used in people who have tinnitus along with severe hearing loss. A cochlear implant sends electrical signals that directly stimulate the auditory nerve to help mask tinnitus and stimulate change in the neural circuits.

Wearable Sound Generators

Small electronic devices fit in the ear and use a pleasant sound to help mask the tinnitus. Most people prefer a masking level that is just a bit louder than their tinnitus. The masking sound can be a soft “shh,” random tones, or music.

Tabletop Sound Generators

These are used as an aid for relaxation or sleep. Placed near your bed, you can program a generator to play pleasant sounds such as waves, waterfalls or rain. If your tinnitus is mild, this might be all you need to help you fall asleep.

Acoustic Neural Stimulation

Acoustic neural stimulation uses a palm-sized device and headphones to deliver a broadband acoustic signal embedded in music. The treatment helps stimulate change in the neural circuits in the brain, desensitizing you to the tinnitus. 

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Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Every day, we experience sound in our environment. Normally, these sounds are at safe levels that don’t damage our hearing. But sounds can be harmful when they are too loud, even for a brief time. These sounds can damage sensitive structures in the inner ear and cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).

When you are exposed to a loud noise or noises, you may slowly start to lose your hearing. Over time, sounds may become distorted or muffled, and you might find it difficult to understand other people when they talk or have to turn up the volume on the television. An extremely loud burst of sound can rupture the eardrum or damage the bones in the middle ear.

Loud noise exposure can also cause tinnitus, a ringing, buzzing, or roaring in the ears or head. Tinnitus may subside over time but can continue constantly or occasionally throughout a person’s life. Hearing loss and tinnitus can occur in one or both ears.

How Loud is Too Loud?

Sound is measured in units called decibels (dB). A-weighted decibels (dBA) can be used to describe sound based on what human ears can actually hear. Sounds at or below 70 dBA are generally considered safe. Any sound at or above 85 dBA is more likely to damage your hearing over time.

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Normal Conversation 60dBA

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heavy city traffic 85 dba

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Motorcyles 95 dba

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MP3 player at max volume 105 dba

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Sirens 120 dba

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Firecrackers & firearms 150 dba

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