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Sound Advice

Written by by Randa Mansour Shousher, AuD, CCC-A. Posted in December

Q: I recently started having episodes of ringing in my ears, and it’s driving me crazy. Would you mind explaining what it is, the technical term for the ringing, along with other facts I should know to help me understand it better? I know I can count on you for the explanation.

 

A: I would love nothing more than to educate you a little on this subject. The medical term for the ringing in your ears is tinnitus. Tinnitus is described as a sound in the ear or head when there is no other noise in the environment. Individuals with tinnitus usually state they have ringing, buzzing, whistling, roaring, or other noises in their ears. Usually there is damage occurring in the inner ear hair cells that produces tinnitus as a side effect.

According to the American Tinnitus Association, about 15% of people have tinnitus under the age of 55 and the number rises to over 30% for those over the age of 55. Tinnitus may not disturb a person and it may be temporary, but for many people the tinnitus is quite disturbing and permanent.

One needs to understand that there are many causes of tinnitus, such as exposure to loud noise, ear infections, and certain medications. Most commonly, tinnitus occurs in association with a hearing loss. The goal is to figure out what is causing the tinnitus and then plot out the treatment regimen.

Tinnitus may start causing anxiety and stress to the body through the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary processes in the body such as heart rate, breathing, and blood flow. For some, the tinnitus becomes a negative experience that may affect their employment, family, and social life. Some individuals with tinnitus are bothered so much that sleep, relaxation, and concentration are affected. It can also affect quality of life to the point that some avoid certain gatherings and/or events that they feel are bothersome to their tinnitus.

The goal is to take control of the tinnitus before it controls you. Many treatment options are available, and treatment is personalized for each person depending on the severity and the impact tinnitus has on their wellbeing. If you would like more information on tinnitus and treatment options, give me a call and I’ll be happy to discuss this further with you. Meanwhile, the holiday season is upon us and can be stressful, so stay healthy and try to enjoy the season for what it is meant to be all about.❦