What Causes Tinnitus
What Causes Tinnitus? Ringing and Buzzing in Your Ears? Hearing is such a vital part of our world but if you start to hear things like ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking or hissing on a regular basis, there might be something wrong with your hearing.
Audiologist, Dr. Danny Gnewikow, tells us more about tinnitus. Tinnitus is a hidden noise. Many people have it for no obvious reason to them. They wake up one morning and their ear is ringing and they certainly are concerned about it.
It’s a red flag. If you have a noise in your ear that hasn’t been there before, you need to get it checked out medically. Most of the time, it’s benign. It’s not anything you need to be terribly concerned about once you’ve checked it medically.
But tinnitus can be indications of acoustic tumors, it can be indication of neurological disorders, or it simply may be the result of having some hearing loss and the nerve fibers in the inner ear not functioning the way they were originally intended to function.
There’s all kinds of tinnitus people can have. Most people describe it as a high-pitched ringing. It gets louder and softer. Sometimes it’s a roaring, sometimes people describe it as crickets or night noises.
It originates in the ear
And it, we used to think it came from the ear. Well, it originates in the ear and it’s generally related to the fact that the nerve ending, the hair cells in the cochlea or the inner ear, are not working together the way they should be.
But the noise is actually not coming from the ear, it’s coming from the electrical pathways between the ear and the brain and sometimes even probably from very close to the brain. It occurs in probably 10 to 15 percent of the population, so it’s not anything that’s, that’s particularly rare.
It can be caused by damage to the nerve. It can come from loud noise. It can be caused by medications. In fact, if you read the fliers that come with most of your medications, the specification sheet, a lot of them will say that ringing in your ears is a side effect and sometimes it can trigger that.
Levels of noise
So it can come from meds, it can come from high levels of noise, it can come from neurological disorders, from head trauma. Sometimes people have it following an explosion. They say, “Well, when I was 16 years old somebody shot a gun next to my head and I didn’t have hearing protection and ever since then my ear has been ringing.
” Well, of course, what they did was they damaged the delicate nerve endings in the inner ear and this was the result of that. — Now does it ever go away? You know, for somebody that’s been in this explosion or you know, or taking medications especially, you know, will it go away if the medications are stopped? — Okay, that’s a good question.
A lot of times, it does. And probably, you remember when you were a child and somebody popped a cherry bomb next to your ear and your ears would ring and ring and ring and then after a few days, it stops.
So sometimes it does but sometimes it doesn’t. With the medications, sometimes it will when you get off of them and sometimes it doesn’t. So you can’t always tell. People that have had it for long term, generally have it for most of their life.
Hearing loss from noise exposure
I’ve got it myself because I’ve got hearing loss from noise exposure and mine is there 24/7, it never goes away. As far as dealing with it, that’s the big issue. What do you do about it? Now, you see a lot of things advertised about, get this drug or get this drug and it will relieve your tinnitus.
There is no documentation in the research for anything having any major effect on that. Most of the time, when you get it, you’ve got it. There are a couple approaches that I use. One is what I would call habituation.
And I know that sounds like a cop-out but if you were raised in Oklahoma and you’ve never seen the ocean and you went to Cape Hatteras and you spent the night with your window open, all you would hear are the waves.
But if you liked it so much that you bought the house and you live there the rest of your life, you don’t, you don’t hear the waves anymore. Because they’re, it’s no longer important.
Or if you live by the railroad track, eventually you don’t hear the train unless you stop to think about it. And I think that’s the way most people cope with it. I think the people that have the most difficulty are probably people that have other emotional issues and they focus on it and are unable to just consider it like any other little malady.
If you’ve got a bad knee, most of the time you just get used to it and say I’ve got a bad knee and go on. And that’s kind of the way, I think, you deal with it, is to habituate. The other issue is the use of hearing aids.
Now, people say, “Will a hearing aid take away my tinnitus?” Well, no, it doesn’t. But in about 50% of the population, if you can amplify the frequencies that you’re missing, a lot of times that will mask them.
In fact, most people will tell you, “I don’t notice my ringing until it’s night and it’s quiet and there’s no other sound in the room and then it drives me nuts. In the daytime, I don’t notice it much.
” But when you wear a hearing aid, then you’re helping to amplify environmental sounds as well as amplify speech to make it more understandable and in a lot of cases, that helps. It helps in my case.
I still hear it but I hear it much less. But as far as a magic bullet, there really is not one. — So then, the idea is then to come in here and talk to somebody like you about coping with it or learning those coping strategies as well.
— The first thing you need to do if you have tinnitus, is get it checked out. You need to have, see an audiologist to get the hearing checked and make sure there’s not any nerve damage. You probably also need to see an ENT physician.
We work together
We figure things out and they try to fix them if they can. But unfortunately, you can’t always fix the tinnitus. But if it’s a sign of something more serious, such as a tumor in the ear, then that’s something that really would need to be addressed by the physician.
And Audiology Hearing Aid Associates has two area locations. One on Langhorne Road in Lynchburg 434-528-4245. Also digitalhearing4u.com. Another location on Main Street in Danville 434-799-6288. And tune in next week as we talk about problems with hearing high frequencies.