Hearing deficiencies are just some of the downsides of getting older, although special hearing aids and devices like landline phones for seniors can help make their lives a little easier. One of the most common symptoms associated with ear disorders, including hearing loss is tinnitus, also known as “ringing ears”.
For most people, growing old means frequent visits to the doctor, pills, and a general degradation of the human body and its vital functions. The skin becomes wrinkled and dry, the metabolism is lazier, which leads to many dietary changes, the eyes need glasses, and the ears need hearing aids or turning up the volume to be able to understand what is said on the news.
However, hearing deficiencies can occur in any of life’s stages and are a result of various factors, not only aging.
One of the most common symptoms of hearing deficiencies and hearing loss is “ringing in the ears” or tinnitus. It is mainly a perception of a noise heard by a person that is not caused by any external sources. The perception can last anywhere between a few seconds and days in most severe cases. Let’s take a closer look at tinnitus and see if and how it can be treated.
About 1 in 10 American adults claimed to have experienced tinnitus at least once in their lives, while 36% of all people above 65 years of age mention having nearly constant symptoms in the past year.
There isn’t a universal definition of tinnitus because different individuals may have different perceptions of it. Generally speaking, most people refer to tinnitus as ringing in the ears, while some others describe it as high-pitched hissing or even similar to musical sounds.
People can experience these sensations in just one ear or both of them simultaneously, depending on a series of factors.
Moreover, tinnitus can remain constant or come and go at different times, without any apparent reason. And, while some people hear tinnitus only when they are in a quiet setting, others, on the contrary, will hear it in loud environments.
Common causes of tinnitus
As we previously mentioned, tinnitus is not a disease but a symptom. Most often, people with this symptom also have hearing deficiencies or suffer from complete hearing loss. Tinnitus is mainly associated with damage to high-frequency hearing, caused by prolonged exposure to loud noise.
However, not all cases of tinnitus are linked to hearing loss or hearing difficulties, and this is why it is highly important to talk to a doctor if you have tinnitus. You’ll most likely have to address your concerns to an otolaryngologist or an ENT (ears, nose, and throat) specialist. After a hearing test, the physician will be able to determine if you should be concerned about your ringing ears symptom.
Apart from hearing loss, tinnitus has also been linked to the following: sinus and ear infections, congestions, earwax, lack of vitamin B12, temporary joint disorder, traumatic brain injury (TBI), Meniere’s disease, vascular problems, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), and others.
It is also known that over 200 medications, including regular anti-inflammatory pills, can cause tinnitus or temporary hearing problems. Some stronger drugs like the ones used for chemotherapy may cause permanent hearing loss and tinnitus.
The short answer is yes, there is. About two-thirds of people with tinnitus also have a form of hearing loss, permanent or temporary and, in many cases, hearing loss may be the one that’s actually causing tinnitus.
Another interesting fact is that, when you have hearing loss, you will be more aware of your tinnitus because you won’t be hearing all the background noises, sounds, and voices, and your brain will be able to focus more on what it can actually hear. In this case, hearing aids or cochlear implants may help you both with your tinnitus and hearing deficiencies.
However, to make things even more complicated and confusing, nearly 35% of people with tinnitus don’t have any form of hearing deficiencies, and many people with hearing loss don’t have tinnitus also.
Studies show that there is a direct link between stress and tinnitus. Any source of stress and trauma, including PTSD or brain injuries can not only be a trigger for tinnitus but also make it worse, in case you already have it. For some people, even the existence of tinnitus causes them anxiety and stress, so we’re talking about a two-way link.
In order to break this vicious circle, you need to be able to control your stress level and deal with the most important problems in your life. Various types of meditation, as well as anxiety pills or any other natural remedies that can help you calm down and reduce the stress level, have proven their efficiency in fighting tinnitus as well.
Living with tinnitus
Many people manage to have a long and happy life even with their ringing ears. Even if it is linked to hearing problems, tinnitus can be managed although not entirely treated in some cases. Here are some ways to help you cope with tinnitus and live a full life.
Hearing aids are the best solution for those with hearing deficiencies as they can help them integrate back into society and prevent isolation, depression, anxiety, and other disorders linked to a lack of hearing.
The newest models of hearing aids even come with sound therapy features that are specifically designed to help people cope with tinnitus and offer them relief. Hearing aids will amplify the exterior sounds, increasing auditory stimuli which will further diminish the prominence of tinnitus. By helping people hear without too much effort, hearing aids are beneficial against tinnitus as well.
White noise machines
Sound masking devices or white noise machines work on the basic principle that tinnitus tends to become unbearable when there aren’t many noises around you and everything is quiet. These devices are specifically designed to mimic subtle background noises such as nature sounds to trick your brain into focusing more on what’s around.
These noises are usually called pink or white ones because they are calming and help people with sleeping disorders or tinnitus. In some cases, tinnitus can be easily masked by simply turning on a fan, a radio or a TV or listening to the sounds of waterfalls, fountains or calming music.
Dealing with psychological and emotional factors that trigger tinnitus
As we previously mentioned, there is a correlation between tinnitus and stress. Stress is mainly caused by emotional or psychological traumas in one’s life that need to be handled carefully in order to avoid further destructive behaviors such as social isolation and depression.
Some people might find it harder than others to handle tinnitus because it is closely linked to a source of stress in their lives. Specific types of behavioral and cognitive therapies may prove useful in managing the stress level, anxiety, frustration, and anger, as well as depression symptoms.
Audiologists who specialize in tinnitus can help with a series of therapies such as Progressive Tinnitus Management or Tinnitus Retraining Therapy.
Other therapies, including hypnosis and cognitive behavior therapy, can be provided by qualified professionals and can treat various forms of anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and tinnitus by correlation.
Changing your lifestyle
Although starting to eat healthily and becoming more active won’t have dramatic impacts on your mood and health overnight, they are the easiest ways to help you deal with traumatic events and stress in your life. A healthy lifestyle will help you balance your hormones and reduce anxiety, stress, and other symptoms like tinnitus.
For people who are looking to change their lives around and adopt a healthier approach, a clean diet based on fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meat is one of the most important aspects. Apart from that, you’ll also want to exercise regularly and avoid stimulants like alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine which can lead to more severe cases of tinnitus.
Sugary foods can also overstimulate the brain, inducing the so-called “sugar rush” or energy boost that will make you feel restless. Replace your usual sweets and desserts with raw ones that don’t contain refined sugars or with fresh fruits. Don’t forget to also drink plenty of water to hydrate your brain and body from the inside.