Tinnitus - Causes & Solutions
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is commonly described as a ringing in the ears, but it also can sound like roaring, clicking, hissing, or buzzing. It may be soft or loud, high pitched or low pitched. You might hear it in either one or both ears. Roughly 10 percent of the adult population of the United Kingdom has experienced tinnitus lasting at least five minutes in the past year.
What causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus (pronounced tin-NY-tus or TIN-u-tus) is not a disease. It is a symptom that something is wrong in the auditory system, which includes the ear, the auditory nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain, and the parts of the brain that process sound.
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 tumours, hormonal changes in women and possible thyroid abnormalities
Tinnitus is sometimes the first sign of hearing loss in older people. It also can be a side effect of medications. More than 200 drugs are known to cause tinnitus when you start or stop taking them.
People who work in noisy environments—such as factory or construction workers, road crews, or even musicians— can develop tinnitus over time
when ongoing exposure to noise damages tiny sensory hair cells in the inner ear that help transmit sound to the brain. This is called noise induced hearing loss.
Even with all of these associated conditions and causes, some people develop tinnitus for no obvious reason. Most of the time, tinnitus
isn’t a sign of a serious health problem, although if it’s loud or doesn’t go away, it can cause fatigue, depression, anxiety, and problems with memory and concentration. For some, tinnitus can be a source of real
mental and emotional anguish.
Why do I have this noise in my ears?
Although we hear tinnitus in our ears, its source is really in the networks of brain cells (what scientists call neural circuits) that make sense of the sounds our ears hear. A way to think about tinnitus is that it often begins in the ear, but it continues in the brain.
Scientists still haven’t agreed upon what happens in the brain to create the illusion of sound when there is none. Some think that tinnitus is similar to chronic pain syndrome, in which the pain persists even after a wound or
broken bone has healed.
Tinnitus could be the result of the brain’s neural circuits trying to adapt to the loss of sensory hair cells by turning up the sensitivity to sound. This would explain why some people with tinnitus are oversensitive to loud noise.
Tinnitus also could be the result of neural circuits thrown out of balance when damage in the inner ear changes signalling activity in the auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes sound. Or it could be the result of abnormal interactions between neural circuits. The neural circuits involved in hearing aren’t solely dedicated to processing sound. They also communicate with other parts of the brain, such as the limbic region, which regulates mood and emotion.
What should I do if I have Tinnitus?
Book an appointment in with us at the Manchester Hearing Aid Clinic where we will check if anything, such as earwax, is blocking the ear canal.
We will ask you about your current health, medical conditions and treatments to find out if an underlying condition or medication is causing your tinnitus. We will then carry out some subjective and non subjective hearing tests to determine whether you have any hearing loss along with the tinnitus.
What if the sounds in my ear do not go away?
Some people find their tinnitus doesn’t go away or it gets worse. In some cases, it may become so severe that you find it difficult to hear, concentrate, or even sleep. Your doctor will work with you to help find ways to reduce the severity of the noise and its impact on your life.
Are there treatments that can help me?
Tinnitus does not have a cure yet, but treatments that help many people cope better with the condition are available. At the Manchester Hearing Aid Clinic we offer Hearing aids to help people who have hearing loss along
with tinnitus. We also offer Counselling with a registered counsellor to help you learn how to live with your tinnitus. We also offer wearable sound generators which are electronic devices that fit in the ear
and use a soft, pleasant sound cover up the tinnitus.
Acoustic neural stimulation is a relatively new technique for people whose tinnitus is very loud or won’t go away. It 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, which eventually desensitizes you to the tinnitus. This device is now available at the Manchester Hearing Aid Clinic.
Can I do anything to prevent tinnitus or keep it from getting worse?
Anything you can do to limit your exposure to loud noise—by moving away from the sound, turning down the volume, or wearing earplugs or earmuffs—will help prevent tinnitus or keep it from getting worse. Dietary changes and the use of multivitamins can also help with the removal of unwanted noises.
If you would like to discuss any of these conditions and treatments do not hesitate to contact us today.
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