Our hearing is delicate. How it works, how it can be damaged, and some of the associated hearing problems we can face are all becoming important topics of research in the quest to better protect this important sense. It’s not just hearing loss, either. Tinnitus and how to manage it is becoming a widespread concern.
Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, is believed to be one of the most common health conditions in the United States, affecting over 45 million Americans. It is considered a symptom, not a disease. Many things can trigger tinnitus, including:
- Exposure to loud noises
- Age-related hearing loss
- Obstructions in the middle ear such as fluid build-up from a cold
- Head trauma
- Certain medications considered ototoxic drugs
- Underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure and anemia
A physician or hearing health care provider can help uncover the cause of, and in some cases, treat the tinnitus.
While researchers are racing to understand this common condition and how to cure it better, not all cases of tinnitus are treatable. When this buzzing in the ears becomes part of everyday life, it’s important to discuss strategies to manage it with your hearing health care provider. These strategies can help reduce any negative impact on your life including increased anxiety, reduced social interaction, irritability, and even depression.
There are several common therapies and solutions now recommended by audiology professionals:
Many newer models of hearing aids come with a tinnitus masker feature. Hearing aids with this feature can create a sound that reduces the ringing or buzzing sound of tinnitus to the wearer helping to cancel it out.
Health and Wellness
While a nutritious diet and regular exercise has not been directly linked to a reduction of tinnitus, it is believed that better overall health can help to reduce the effects of tinnitus. Whether it is better emotional well-being, improvement of underlying conditions or something more, improving total health is often a recommendation to help manage tinnitus.
Similar to the tinnitus masker feature of many hearing aids, sound therapy uses noise to counteract the ringing or buzzing of tinnitus. Standard white noise machines such as fans are an option, but in many cases, more personalized devices are recommended in combination with counseling. In one study on this type of therapy, researchers reported “more than half the subjects in both our experiments achieved tinnitus suppression.”
Similar to the above strategies, medicine cannot cure tinnitus but may improve it. In some severe cases, hearing health care providers may recommend prescriptions such as amitriptyline and nortriptyline to reduce the effects of the tinnitus. If these are recommended, it’s important to go over all side effects with your provider to determine if they are right for you and your lifestyle.
As with many other health conditions, alternative therapies are becoming more common ways to manage tinnitus. These therapies may include acupuncture, hypnosis and even supplements. Research into these treatments and their impact on tinnitus continues to grow.
While there is still no cure for tinnitus, there are ways to manage it. Discuss options with your audiologist or hearing health care provider to find the best choice for you.