This week is Tinnitus Awareness Week in the U.S. and around the world. For those who’ve been living with tinnitus, you undoubtedly know more than you care to about this awful condition. But for people new to tinnitus, or who may be friends or family members of someone dealing with “ringing in the ears,” here’s a quick primer.
What is tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the medical term for the sensation of hearing sound in your ears when no external sound is present. In most cases, it is a subjective sound, meaning only the individual experiencing tinnitus can hear it. While some describe their tinnitus as ringing in the ears, others say their tinnitus sounds more like hissing, buzzing, whistling, roaring and even chirping.
For many, tinnitus is mild and sporadic. For others, it can be severe and last all day every day. But for everyone, the desire for relief is great — so great, they will try anything to make their tinnitus less annoying, including resorting to acupuncture, eardrops, herbal remedies, hypnosis and more.
Tinnitus affects more than 50 million Americans — or nearly one in every six of us.
What causes tinnitus?
Health experts and scientists still don’t know the exact cause of tinnitus. But several sources are known to trigger or worsen ringing in the ears, including:
- Loud Noises and Hearing Loss — Exposure to loud noises can destroy the non-regenerative cilia (tiny hairs) in the cochlea, causing permanent tinnitus and/or hearing loss. Noise-induced tinnitus is often the result of exposure to loud environmental noises, such as working in a factory setting, with or around heavy machinery, or even a single event like a gunshot or loud concert.
- Aging — Natural aging, too, gradually destroys the cilia, and is a leading cause of hearing loss. Tinnitus is a common symptom of age-related hearing loss.
- Ototoxic Medications – Some prescription medications such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antidepressants, diuretics and others can be ototoxic, meaning they are harmful to the inner ear as well as the nerve fibers connecting the cochlea to the brain.
- Hearing Conditions – Conditions such as Ménière’s disease are known to cause tinnitus.
- Health Conditions – Tinnitus has been associated with a number of health conditions, including:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Thyroid problems
- Fibromyalgia and chronic pain
- Head or neck trauma
- Jaw misalignment
- Auditory, vestibular or facial nerve tumors
- Stress and fatigue
Are there any cures for tinnitus?
There is currently no known tinnitus cure. However, according to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), treatment options are available. Since nothing can make the tinnitus go away, the goal of treatments is to “lower the perceived burden of tinnitus.”
Hearing aids are one popular treatment option listed by the ATA. Hearing aids can help in several ways, including by masking the tinnitus sound.
Today, all Starkey hearing aids feature our Multiflex Tinnitus Technology. Clinically proven to help provide relief, this proprietary technology produces a comforting, customizable sound stimulus that can be fine tuned to soothe your annoying tinnitus sound and help take your mind off it.
What to do if you have tinnitus
Since the exact cause of tinnitus is unknown, visiting a hearing healthcare professional for a clinical evaluation is a smart first step. This evaluation can help determine the intensity of the tinnitus and what may be causing it. Specialized tests can also be performed to evaluate your auditory system. Some of these tests measure the specific features of the tinnitus itself, and could include:
- Evoked response audiometry
- Tinnitus pitch match
- Tinnitus loudness match
This evaluation is also a good time to discuss tinnitus treatment options, including Starkey's Multiflex Tinnitus Technology.
We’re here to help
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — anytime there is an entire week devoted to one thing, it must be important. But as leaders in hearing health and wellness, Starkey doesn't need a special week to appreciate the seriousness of tinnitus. That's why we're committed to helping people find relief 52 weeks a year, every year.
If you want to find a hearing healthcare professional to talk to about tinnitus, we can help. Call 1-888-908-1845 or type your zip code in here, and we can connect you to a provider near you.
Join our community of Starkey Blog subscribers
Want a week's worth of Starkey blogs delivered to your inbox every Friday? Sign up here.