Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no actual external sound is present. It is commonly referred to as ringing in the ears, but it can also present as a buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, and clicking sound. Tinnitus can be both temporary or chronic conditions.
The Center for Disease Control estimates that approximately 15% of the population, 50 million Americans, suffer from some degree of tinnitus.
Tinnitus itself is not a disease but an underlying symptom of another health condition. In most cases, it is the brain’s reaction to damage to the auditory system. Other causes of tinnitus include obstructions in the middle ear, head & neck trauma, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), Sinus pressure or barometric trauma, and ototoxic drugs. Some of the other medical conditions with tinnitus as a system are hypo/hyperthyroidism, high blood pressure, Lyme disease, acoustic neuroma, and Ménière’s disease.
Although there is no scientifically proven cure for chronic tinnitus there are several ways to manage it and reduce the perceived intensity.
- General wellness- a person’s perceived intensity of tinnitus can fluctuate based on a person’s overall well being. A healthy diet, exercise and social activities can help make living with tinnitus easier.
- When a hearing loss is present, hearing aids can amplify environmental sounds masking out the sound of the tinnitus.
- Different sound therapies are available using different external sounds to counteract your perception and reaction to your tinnitus.
- In some people tinnitus can trigger negative emotions like anxiety, depression and anger. Behavioral therapy is an option to learn to disassociate your tinnitus from a negative behavioral response. Some of these options include: cognitive behavioral therapy, tinnitus retraining therapy, tinnitus activities treatment, and progressive tinnitus management.