Tinnitus, also called ringing in the ears, is one of the most common audiological issues in the world – it can also be one of the most debilitating. While it might not seem like a major auditory problem, tinnitus affects about 1 in 5 people, so it’s much more common than most people think.
Tinnitus is defined as the perception of noise in one or both of the ears in the absence of an outside auditory source. Generally speaking, people with tinnitus experience ringing, buzzing, clicking, and other such noises either constantly or frequently. These noises can be low, background sounds or can be so loud that they interfere with one’s ability to hear actual sounds.
There are two kinds of tinnitus – subjective and objective. Subjective tinnitus is the kind of tinnitus in which only the patient can hear these noises. The most common form of the tinnitus, subjective tinnitus can be caused by a whole host of underlying issues, such as problems with the auditory nerve or the part of the brain that interprets auditory stimuli.
Objective tinnitus, on the other hand, is audible to hearing health professionals during examinations. This form of tinnitus is quite rare but is often caused by blood vessel, middle ear bone, or muscle contraction issues.
Ultimately, tinnitus isn’t really a condition unto itself, but rather the manifestation of symptoms from some underlying cause. Commonly, these causes include inner ear hair damage, age-related hearing loss, and exposure to loud noises but there are a number of other lesser known diseases that can cause tinnitus, too.
Unfortunately, there is no quick and simple treatment for tinnitus and there is no tried and true cure. Most healthcare providers try to lower the effect of tinnitus on an individual so that the noise affects their life as little as possible.
While curing tinnitus would require a cure to the underlying condition, treatments for tinnitus work to reduce the perceived intensity and burden of the noise. There are a number of treatment options available, including medication. That being said, there are currently no FDA-approved drugs for tinnitus, rather, these medications help to address the anxiety and stress caused by the noise. Here are a few of the non-medication options for treating tinnitus:
At the end of the day, everyone’s tinnitus is different. What might work well for one person could have no effect on another’s symptoms. If you or a loved one are concerned about the effects of chronic tinnitus on their quality of life, a phone call to a hearing healthcare professional is the first step toward treatment.