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Ringing in your ear - Tinnitus

What Is Tinnitus?

Most people have heard about, or have personally experienced the ringing in the ears and other strange sounds that don’t appear to be coming from the environment but haven’t a clue where it all stems from. So, what is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the all encompassing name for a variety of sounds that are perceived from inside the ear and are not due to external influences. 

Tinnitus is characterized by a constant or intermittent ringing, whistling or buzzing sound in the ear where the sound is not audible to others. It is not a health condition in itself, but rather a symptom of another health problem or circumstance, such as an ear infection, a buildup of ear wax, prolonged exposure to loud noises and a side-effect of some types of medication. 

In some cases, the tinnitus may just stay for a short period of time and although it may be constant during this time, will eventually fade. This is often the case where an ear infection is present and once the body deals with the infection, the ringing eventually disappears.

Tinnitus is quite common affecting around 1 in 5 people at some point in their lives/  However, only around 10-15% of adults have recurring tinnitus. 

It is not considered to be a serious problem and only affects the quality of life in 1% of suffers. However, it can be extremely distressing when the sounds first appear, seemingly from nowhere, and does not reduce or go away. 

When hearing becomes impaired, tinnitus can occur as a result of incorrect signals from the ear to the brain. The actual causes are still not fully understood but seem to be associated with the fine hair cells running along the auditory canal which may be damaged or otherwise affected.

Tinnitus can be markedly reduced with various treatments such as sound therapy which uses other sounds to minimize perception of tinnitus, changes to lifestyle, reducing stressors which may instigate tinnitus and hearing aids. 

Tinnitus can cause some discomfort, uneasiness and affect sleep patterns as well as reducing the ability to relax.

Some people find that they become accustomed to the noises and hardly notice them, but in others, the constant ringing and buzzing can become detrimental to their quality of life. 

Treatment is necessary in this case and should be implemented. 

What Are The Symptoms of Tinnitus?

The many sounds associated with tinnitus range from mild sounds such as low buzzing, soft clicking and chirping noises to more intense ringing, whistling and hissing sounds. Some people even experience what has been termed a ‘musical hallucination’ where songs and music are heard repeatedly. There are also varying levels of severity and intensity with some people experiencing small spells of tinnitus and others continuously. Regardless of the actual sounds and intensity, however, tinnitus symptoms tends to follow a similar pattern.

When someone first experiences tinnitus, it is thought that the sound is heard by everyone, as is seems very real. If you are experiencing what you think might be tinnitus, but are unsure, you can determine the nature of the sound in two ways. Either ask someone around you if they hear the noise, or you can cover your ears and if you still hear the sound, then it is most probably tinnitus. The noise can still be heard from inside the ear and head area.

Some types of tinnitus can be related to or exist in time with the heart beat giving a pulsating sound. This is often found in those with high blood pressure, arterial damage, a change in blood flow or those who are anxious, or are very stressed. Another reason for pulsating tinnitus is hearing loss or a damaged or perforated eardrum where sounds from inside the body become more acute to the sufferer.

Musical tinnitus or ‘musical hallucination’ can often be the result of medication side-effects or in those who are very anxious and stressed. This type of tinnitus can be somewhat alarming and can cause great distress, however, in most cases the tinnitus will cease once medication has been changed or completed and when stress levels reduce. This type of tinnitus can occur sporadically and may not necessary be linked with hearing loss or impairment.

Some types of tinnitus can also be found in conjunction with ear pain and discomfort. This can often be due to a blockage in the ear such as ear wax build up, ear infection or another foreign body in the ear. This type can be reversed when the blockage or infection has been cleared and the ear canal returned to normal. However, in some cases, it may remain but reduce to a more comfortable level.

Tinnitus is not a medical problem by itself but a symptom of another underlying ear condition. The longer it is left, the more severe it can become, as the underlying problem may deteriorate and become more serious. Tinnitus can also change and produce more complex sounds through time.

What Causes Tinnitus?

There are a multitude of causes of tinnitus, also known as ‘ringing in the ears’  Following are the main causes of tinnitus.

Loud and Prolonged Noise

The most common cause of tinnitus is exposure to loud noises, especially over time, which can cause partial hearing loss, or in some cases, full hearing loss. The damage to the ear caused by loud noise alters the composition of the inner ear, specifically the tiny hair cells which are associated with sending signals to the brain and damage to the nerve endings in the middle ear. If the loud noise is relatively short-lived, the damage may not be permanent and any tinnitus experienced will most probably be very temporary.

However, on-going exposure to loud noise, often associated with the use of heavy machinery, rock musicians and DJ’s, can cause permanent damage with prolonged tinnitus, which can also be louder and more intense. Tinnitus has also been reported in young people who listen to loud music through earphones. This type of tinnitus can be prevented with the use of ear plugs or ear protectors and reducing the volume when listening to music.

Ear Infection and Other Ear Conditions

Tinnitus can appear as a result of an ear or sinus infection. This type of tinnitus is generally transitory and is eliminated once the infection clears. 

Elevated levels of fluid in the middle ear, known as Meniere’s disease and any imbalance to fluid levels in the ear can also bring on tinnitus. 

Pressure in the Eustachian tube which connect the ear and throat as well as ear wax build up and any other abnormality in the outer, middle and inner ear can also cause tinnitus.

Stress

Stress is a big factor in many health related symptoms and conditions and this is no different for tinnitus. Emotional stress and anxiety can heighten awareness of bodily functions and therefore increase the volume and instance of tinnitus. Learning to reduce stress levels and cope with anxiety can significantly reduce the intensity of tinnitus.  See Anxiety

Hearing Loss or Impairment

Hearing loss can, in general, go together with tinnitus as the impairment associated with hearing loss, may also cause tinnitus. However, it is often difficult to distinguish if it is the loss of hearing which causes tinnitus or vice versa. The use of hearing aids can reduce tinnitus considerably, as well as vastly improve hearing and are a preferred treatment option in this case.

Many causes of tinnitus can be prevented such as loud noise impairment and infection, by taking good care of your ears and protecting them when necessary. Using earplugs when exposed to loud noise or when swimming can greatly reduce the risk of tinnitus.  Tinnitus is particularly prevalent in the music industry seen in DJ’s and drummers, where exposure to loud music is sustained on an on-going basis.

Allergies

Allergies can also trigger tinnitus.  This can be from dust, mold, or any allergy including food allergies.  

Calcium Deposits

Other conditions that can trigger tinnitus include calcium build-up on the small bones in your middle ears (otosclerosis),

List of Drugs that can Cause Tinnitus - a list of drugs that have Tinnitus as a side effect. 

Many causes of tinnitus can be prevented such as loud noise impairment and infection, by taking good care of your ears and protecting them when necessary. Using earplugs when exposed to loud noise or when swimming can greatly reduce the risk of tinnitus.  Tinnitus is particularly prevalent in the music industry seen in DJ’s and drummers, where exposure to loud music is sustained on an on-going basis.

Nerve Damage and Tinnitus -  The symptoms of nerve damage (neuropathy) can have many symptoms depending on what nerve is damaged.  Occasionally, there is some damage is to nerves that service the ear and a symptom of this is tinnitus.   You can read more about it at Nerve Damage and Tinnitus

Calcium deposits in the ear 

TMJ out of place. 
The temporomandibular joint is the joint of the jaw and is frequently referred to as TMJ. There are two TMJs, one on either side, working in unison.   It might need an adjustment.

How To Reduce Tinnitus

There are many forms of tinnitus.  Regardless of how severe your tinnitus is, there are methods available which will allow you to learn to live with the condition and also, how to reduce tinnitus.

One of the main problems, when suffering with tinnitus, is trying to get to sleep or relax and many people find that silence can be quite deafening. At night time when all is quiet, more focus is given to the sounds commonly associated with tinnitus and can deeply affect the individual, leading to a vicious cycle of the inability to sleep and relax and increased stress levels. Following are some very effective methods for reducing tinnitus and in some cases, prevent it altogether.

Sound Replacement

In order to remove focus from tinnitus on to other more comforting sounds, it is useful to have a fan or some other environmental noise in the background when you are trying to sleep. Some people find it useful to leave the television or radio on at night, as the sound supersedes the buzzing and ringing of the tinnitus, allowing them to zone out and fall asleep. For further relaxation, other available options involve playing soothing CD’s such  as whale and birdsong, which will provide a duel function of blotting out the tinnitus and gently relaxing the mind.

Exercise

Sometimes, tinnitus can be the result of tense muscles, stress and bad circulation. Getting plenty of exercise will help keep blood circulating at an optimum rate and build up muscle tone. The increase in physical activity will also help to reduce stress and promote natural fatigue, allowing the body to relax and help you to drift off to sleep. Additional exercise is also beneficial if you are overweight or obese, which has also been linked to tinnitus.

Other Lifestyle Changes

There are many lifestyle factors which can enhance the intensity of tinnitus making the condition far worse than it needs to be. If you suffer from allergies and sinus problems, try to avoid allergens wherever possible, such as keeping the home dust free, staying indoors when the pollen count is high, avoiding food and drink which contain high levels of sulphates and other preservatives, such as wine, beer and foods with artificial flavors and colors, especially mono-sodiumtglutamate, (MSG).  See Allergies

Underlying Ear Conditions

Tinnitus is usually the result of an existing problem of condition of the ear. Getting the underlying problem treated can sometimes eliminate tinnitus altogether as tinnitus is simply a symptom of the ear condition. Some cases of tinnitus have been reported to be  caused by a build up of ear wax, blocking and impairing hearing.  Many people who have suffered from tinnitus for years could have prevented further suffering by getting the initial ailment treated.

Finally, tinnitus can be reduced by simply looking after ear health, keeping the ears clean  and avoiding loud noise whenever possible. If you have suffered previously or currently suffer with tinnitus, make sure to avoid causal factors and use protective ear wear when necessary.

7 Tinnitus Myths and The Truth Revealed

Most people have heard of tinnitus but definitions of this symptom vary widely and many people believe common tinnitus myths to be fact. This article will look at the various myths surrounding tinnitus and reveal it’s true identification.

1.Tinnitus Only Affects The elderly

While tinnitus may indeed affect the elderly, as it is a symptom of impaired hearing, it can also be found in people of all ages and can even affect children. Tinnitus is usually caused by externally influenced damage to the ear and this can happen at any age.

2. Tinnitus is an Illness and Can Never Be Cured

Tinnitus is not an illness but rather a symptom of another health condition or due to a blockage in the ear pathways. Tinnitus cannot be cured as such, purely because it is not a health condition but once the underlying condition, or whatever circumstances are causing tinnitus, is treated and cured or removed, tinnitus may also disappear. In other cases, a cure for the underlying problem is not necessary as tinnitus temporarily exists due to exposure to a loud noise for a short period of time and can right itself relatively quickly.

3. Tinnitus Is Imagined and Not Real

The statement that tinnitus is imagined or psychosomatic, which is commonly believed, is very insulting to a tinnitus sufferer. Tinnitus is very real and is a result of physiological disturbances or damage to the inner or outer ear. Although the sound is not audible to others, it can be extremely loud and distracting to the sufferer, causing great discomfort and anxiety.

4. Tinnitus is a Constant Ringing Noise In the Ears

Many people are under the impression that tinnitus is a constant noise that never ceases and is in the form of a ringing sound. Actually, tinnitus can come and go or it can be constant, but a much higher percentage of people experience intermittent tinnitus. The sound that is heard also differs between sufferers, where some can experience a ringing and others more of a whistling, hissing, thudding, clicking and so on. These noises are simply a description by the sufferer and the sound can be almost any type of noise, even music.

5. People With Tinnitus Will Eventually Go Mad

This is another common myth where tinnitus is thought to elicit severe psychological disturbances. Although tinnitus can lead to focus problems and even depression, this is very rare. Tinnitus can be extremely infuriating, but with time, the noise either subsides or the sufferer learns to ‘zone out’ and ignore the sounds.

A high percentage of the population will have experienced tinnitus at one time or another, some without even knowing what it was, however, severe sufferers usually receive treatment and therapy to teach them how to reduce focus on tinnitus sounds and eliminate lifestyle factors which heighten severity.

Optimizing Your Diet

Another cause for tinnitus is due to deficiencies in some vital nutrients such as the B vitamins, which can be found in everyday foods such as fruit, vegetables, cereals and grains. A poor diet can be responsible for many ailments and eating a well balanced diet, containing all food groups, will ensure you are getting all the nutrients required for optimum health.

It is also beneficial to cut out foods which are refined and chock full of preservatives. Tinnitus can be caused by allergies and food intolerances, so cutting down on high risk allergy foods, such as those containing mono-sodium glutamate, sulphites and preservatives and reducing levels of alcohol is advisable.

 

Interesting Technique

If you have ringing in the ears, you must watch this video and then let us know your results.

Here is an Educational Video How to Stop Tinnitus

 

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