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Tinnitus Explained
Hearing Health

TINITUS EXPLAINED

You may be surprised to learn that about 15% of the population in the United States is diagnosed with tinnitus, and of those afflicted, approximately 2 million people have a debilitating case. Unfortunately, severe tinnitus can prevent patients from relaxing or sleeping properly and inhibit their ability to concentrate. They may also struggle with depression, or persistent anxiety.

Many believe that tinnitus manifests exclusively as a buzzing noise, but this is not always the case. Some people hear noises like whooshing, clicking, hissing or even the sound of music.

No matter what tinnitus sounds like, the noise can be a distraction that can reduce our quality of life – and as a result, tinnitus is a condition that is tied closely to emotions. People with tinnitus often feel frustration or even fear of the noise that only they can hear.

TYPICAL CAUSES OF TINNITUS

Hearing loss

Age-related hearing loss and hearing loss caused by damage to the ear are both believed to be causes of tinnitus.

Head or neck injuries

Head and neck injuries, including cases of traumatic brain injury, can cause tinnitus. When the cause of the tinnitus is an injury, the sound and volume heard may vary more than other types of tinnitus.

Medications

Certain medications can cause tinnitus. Symptoms usually go away when the medication is discontinued.

Blockages

Ear canal blockages, caused by ear wax, dirt, foreign objects, hair and even head congestion can cause temporary tinnitus. The sounds go away when the blockage is removed.

IS TINNITUS CAUSED BY ANXIETY?

Tinnitus is not caused by anxiety. However, tinnitus and anxiety often go hand in hand, and tinnitus symptoms can be made worse by anxiety. Frequently, patients report that tinnitus began at a time when they were feeling anxiety. Since tinnitus itself can also be a source of stress, some patients experience cyclical feelings of despair, stress and worsening tinnitus. As the stress and anxiety gets worse, so does the tinnitus.

Patients who are especially distracted by their tinnitus may experience more stress and anxiety than patients who are able to push tinnitus out of their thoughts. Tinnitus that becomes a dominating problem can seem even louder and more intrusive simply because the patient cannot stop thinking about the sound they hear.

HOW TO MANAGE THE STRESS OF TINNITUS

As already mentioned, for some patients, the sound of tinnitus fades easily into the background. To them, tinnitus is a manageable condition, and the sounds they hear are distant and unimportant.

However, for people who experience stress and aggravation due to their condition, tinnitus is a hardship. Learning to manage the stress of tinnitus can make it less of a problem. If you have tinnitus, there are many things you can do to keep your condition under control.

Eat right and sleep well

Wellness becomes especially important for someone experiencing a condition like tinnitus, especially tinnitus made worse by anxiety. Poor health just makes everything harder. Eating right and sleeping well can help you manage your condition by maintaining good physical health. It’s also worth noting that there is a clear connection to eating right, sleeping well and maintaining good emotional health. Maintaining a healthy body makes managing the stress of tinnitus easier overall.

Analyze your thoughts

Analyzing frustration and anger you feel about tinnitus can help you control your feelings. Try to take note of when you first felt frustration or stress because of your condition. Why did you have those feelings? What were you afraid of in that moment? Were your fears justified? What is the worst thing that could happen because of your tinnitus?

Analyzing your thoughts in this way can sometimes bring about healthy moments of realization, which can itself help reduce the stress and anxiety that you feel because of your condition.

Avoid silence

Silence can be a problem for people with tinnitus because it calls attention to the noise they hear inside. Often, playing soft music in the background can help. Other noise, even white noise, can help manage stress related to tinnitus.

Take time for yourself

While taking time to relax or even meditate does not cure tinnitus, it can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety caused by tinnitus. Relaxation takes different forms for everyone. Some people choose to write down their feelings, others may paint, walk, exercise or read books.

If you meditate to relax, consider playing music or even guided meditation sounds in the background during this activity. This allows you to meditate while also dampening the sound of tinnitus.

TREATING TINNITUS

Some types of tinnitus can be stopped. For example, tinnitus that occurs because of a blockage in the ear will go away if the blockage is removed. Tinnitus that occurs as a side effect of a medication will likely go away if you stop taking the medication.

However, most cases of tinnitus can only be treated, not cured. Some treatment options available include:

Sound therapy

Sound therapy can help patients manage the intrusion of tinnitus sounds in their everyday life.

Hearing aids

Tinnitus often accompanies hearing loss. Use of hearing aids can help provide relief by calling attention to external sound thus drawing attention away from internal sound.

Behavioral therapies

Many patients suffering from tinnitus also experience depression, frustration and anger. Behavioral therapy can help with these problems.

Drug therapies

Drug therapies can help with the accompanying stress and depression that many people experience because of tinnitus.

SUFFERING FROM TINNITUS? GET HELP FROM AN AUDIOLOGIST

Although there is no cure for tinnitus, audiologists can still help patients manage their condition and live with the sounds they hear. Audiologists can prescribe an appropriate hearing aid and may prescribe sound therapy to make the problem more acceptable. If you feel your tinnitus is caused by anxiety, work with your physician to manage your emotional response to your condition.

See a doctor when you first notice the sound. Early treatment can help you learn to live with the noise of tinnitus while you continue to enjoy good quality of life.

SOURCES:
  1. American Tinnitus Association, Understanding the Facts
  2. American Tinnitus Association, Causes
  3. British Tinnitus Association, Tinnitus and Stress
  4. Hearinglink.org, How to Manage Tinnitus

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