For the millions of people experiencing chronic tinnitus, a persistent background sound has become an ongoing feature of life. This condition is defined by a persistent sound, such as ringing, buzzing, whirring, clicking, humming, or whooshing, that does not originate outside the body. How might that be?
There are two main types of tinnitus: objective and subjective. Objective tinnitus occurs when a feature of the body itself causes the sound. These bodily functions can be cardiovascular, due to a bone transformation, or as a result of another bodily function so close to the ear that it actually creates a ripple effect of sound within the body. With the right technology, a doctor will be able to “hear” that sound.
The other major type—subjective tinnitus—occurs when a sound can only be heard by the person experiencing it. This type of tinnitus is usually related to damage to the tiny hairlike organelles of the inner ear called stereocilia. Often accompanied by hearing loss, as well, the stereocilia have been bent, broken, or otherwise damaged, effectively turning them “on” in the sensory apparatus of the person with subjective tinnitus.
Let’s consider a few options for managing or treating tinnitus that apply to both of these major types.
Visit Your Doctor
In order to diagnose the possibility of objective tinnitus, a visit to your doctor is often necessary. Either an audiologist or an otolaryngologist (otherwise known as an Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor or ENT) will be able to address the root causes of tinnitus, ruling out the possibility that an underlying medical condition is causing you to hear the sound. It is crucial to make sure that you do not have another medical condition before proceeding to tinnitus management, because tinnitus can be seen as a warning sign of some other conditions.
Visit Your Hearing Health Professional
In conjunction with your visit to a doctor for medical diagnosis, your next step should be a visit to your hearing health professional for a hearing diagnosis, as well. The first step will likely be a hearing test, because subjective tinnitus tends to be linked to hearing loss, as well. In addition to treating your tinnitus, it might also be necessary to treat hearing loss at the same time.
One of the possible treatment options actually originates in hearing aids. These aids not only raise the volume on specific frequencies of sound that are limited or missing from your spectrum of hearing, but they can also emit a sound that works against the flow of tinnitus symptoms. Some think of this sound as effectively canceling out tinnitus symptoms.
Many people have found relief and success through this form of treatment, but it can be used in conjunction with other treatments, as well. Contact us today to learn more about our tinnitus treatment options.
White Noise Masking
Even those who use hearing aids to treat tinnitus will likely need to take them out to go to sleep, and for many people the quiet night prior to sleeping is one of the most frustrating times to experience tinnitus symptoms. With no other competing sounds in the room, the sound of tinnitus comparatively seems louder, and many people seek assistance in order to fall asleep.
Though some people use the television, radio, or other devices to emit competing sounds, white noise can be effective without causing a disturbing effect at the same time. Particularly for those who can’t seem to fall asleep while music or other noises are present, the subtle wash of white noise can be a soothing way to fall asleep. Even at a relatively low level, white noise masking can reduce the experience of tinnitus to a level that feels manageable in order to sleep.
In addition to these techniques that have been proven most successful, others have pointed to stress reduction, reducing alcohol, smoking, and caffeine, and healthy eating as lifestyle habits that can have an effect on tinnitus.
Though these habits are certainly beneficial for overall health, their relationships with tinnitus have not been sufficiently borne out in clinical research, so consulting with your doctor and hearing health professional should be the first line of recourse to address your tinnitus. With the right tools in your kit, you will have the most likelihood of success in managing these symptoms and restoring sonic ease.