Q: Our son returned from serving in the military complaining of ringing in one of his ears. He relates it to being exposed to artillery over a four-year period. Have you ever heard of anyone suffering from ringing in the ear?
A: Tinnitus, commonly described as ringing in the ear, is a complaint we come across several times a day in our clinic when assessing patients of all ages. While some patients might say the tinnitus doesn’t bother them, others might say it drives them crazy. While one may have ringing in the ear from impacted cerumen (earwax), another patient may have it as a complication from a hearing loss or trauma to the head.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated in 2008 that some 23 million people in the United States complain of hearing sound when in fact there is no external noise or sound present. In fact, the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) estimates the number to be as high as 50 million, so one can only imagine how often we see patients come through our doors asking for help.
The survey ATA gathered suggested that about 12 million individuals had chronic conditions that made them seek medical intervention and about 2 million suffered severely, experiencing issues with their sleep, concentration, work, and social life.
Loud noise, for example from power tools such as chainsaws, music, or other sources, can cause damage to the inner ear in particular. Here at Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic, we have also seen many veterans with tinnitus due to exposure to extreme noise above the 85-decibel level (this is the limit of sound allowable during an eight-hour work day) in training or combat.
According to an article in Medical News Today (December 2018), many military servicemembers are exposed to sound levels over 140 decibels. In fact, the Independent Budget for the Department of Veterans Affairs' 2008 Fiscal Budget identified several weapons that surpass this decibel level, including machine guns, handguns, rifles, hand grenades fifty feet from a target, and towed howitzers.
As reported in the Washington Post, tinnitus has drawn greater attention because of the increased number of affected veterans. Through 2006, that number was 400,000. But in 2008 alone, 93,000 veterans returned from Iraq with that complaint.
Our tinnitus treatment program has been growing weekly and is proven to help reduce the effect tinnitus has on one’s daily life. The Veterans Administration is currently utilizing the same treatment protocol in several of their clinics around the country. The goal of this non-invasive treatment is to reduce tinnitus-related disturbance through long-term therapy that targets the neurological processes of tinnitus.
If you would like to learn more about the evaluation and treatment program available to you or a servicemember, contact us at one of our offices. You can also obtain more information at www.nwohc.com.
Randa Mansour-Shousher, AuD, CCC-A, is a Doctor of Audiology with Northwest Ohio Hearing Clinic, located at 1125 Hospital Dr., Suite 50 in Toledo (419-383-4012) and 1601 Brigham Dr., Suite 160 in Perrysburg (419-873-4327). ❦