Hearing Health Blog

Worried man listening to a ringing in his ear. Tinnitus concept

Tinnitus is an exceptionally common condition of the ear. It’s one of the most prevalent health conditions in the world with some estimates indicating that up to 10 percent of the population experiences it at one time or another. Even though the most common manifestation of tinnitus is a phantom ringing or buzzing in your ear, it can also present as other sounds as well.

While the preponderance of tinnitus may be evident, the causes are often more cloudy. Some of the wide array of tinnitus causes are temporary, while others can be more long term.

That’s why your environment can be critically important. After all, every environment has a soundscape, and when that soundscape is noisy, you could be doing damage to your ears. If your tinnitus is caused by damage, it may end up being permanent.

What is tinnitus (and why is it so prevalent)?

Tinnitus is a condition that causes you to hear a noise that isn’t actually there. For the majority of individuals, tinnitus manifests as a buzzing or ringing, but it may also present as rumbling, humming, screeching, or other noises as well. Normally, the sounds are steady or rhythmic. For most people, tinnitus will occur over a short period of time before resolving itself and going away. Though not as common, chronic tinnitus is effectively permanent.

There are a couple of reasons why tinnitus is so prevalent. Firstly, environmental factors that can contribute to tinnitus are quite common. Underlying conditions and injuries can contribute to tinnitus symptoms and that accounts for the second reason. And there are quite a few conditions and injuries that can trigger tinnitus. As a result, tinnitus tends to be very common.

How can the environment impact tinnitus?

There are a large number of factors that can bring about tinnitus symptoms, including ototoxic chemicals and medications. However, when most people discuss “environment” in terms of tinnitus, they actually mean the noise. For example, some neighborhoods are louder than others (traffic noise in some settings can get extremely high). Somebody would be at risk of environmental tinnitus, for instance, if they worked around loud industrial equipment.

When evaluating the state of your health, these environmental factors are really significant.

Noise related damage, as with hearing loss, can trigger tinnitus symptoms. In these cases, the resulting tinnitus tends to be chronic in nature. Here are some of the most common noise-related causes of tinnitus:

  • Traffic: Traffic in heavily populated locations can be much louder than you might expect it to be. And noise damage can happen at a lower volume than you may expect. Tinnitus and hearing damage can be the result of long commutes in these noisy settings.
  • Music: Listening to music at high volumes is a pretty common practice. Doing this on a regular basis can often trigger tinnitus symptoms.
  • Noise in the workplace: Many workplaces, including offices, are frequently the source of loud noises. Tinnitus can eventually result from being in these places for eight hours a day, whether it’s industrial equipment or the din of a lot of people talking in an office.
  • Events: Tinnitus can sometimes result from loud noises, even if they aren’t experienced over a long duration. For instance, going to a concert or using firearms can both lead to tinnitus if the volumes reach a loud enough level.

Damage to the ears can occur at a much lower volume than people generally expect. Consequently, it’s essential to wear hearing protection before you think you may need it. Noise related tinnitus symptoms can often be avoided altogether by doing this.

If I’m experiencing tinnitus, what should I do?

Will tinnitus go away by itself? Well, in some cases it might. In other situations, your symptoms could be permanent. There’s no way to know which is which at the beginning. Moreover, just because your tinnitus has reseeded doesn’t mean that noise damage has not happened, resulting in an increased risk of chronic tinnitus in the future.

People tend to underestimate the minimum volume that damage starts to occur, which is the most significant contributing factor to its advancement. Damage has most likely already happened if you’re experiencing tinnitus. If this is the case, finding and changing the source of the noise damage is crucial to prevent additional damage.

Here are a few tips you can try:

  • Reducing the amount of time you spend in noisy environments without giving your ears a chance to recover.
  • Using hearing protection (either earplugs or earmuffs) in order to prevent damage. You can also get some amount of protection from noise canceling headphones.
  • Lowering the volume of your environment when possible. If you have any machinery that’s not in use, turn it off, and shut the windows if it’s noisy outside, for instance.

Dealing with symptoms

Lots of individuals who experience chronic tinnitus find the symptoms to be extremely disruptive and uncomfortable. This prompts them to attempt to find a way to ease the severity of their symptoms.

If you hear a ringing or buzzing sound, it’s important to make an appointment, particularly if the sound won’t go away. We can help you figure out the best way to regulate your specific situation. For most cases of chronic tinnitus, there’s no cure. Here are a number of ways to manage the symptoms:

  • Hearing aid: This can help amplify other sounds and, as a result, drown out the ringing or buzzing created by tinnitus.
  • Masking device: This is a device that fits like a hearing aid and plays sounds to mask your symptoms. The precise calibration of your device will depend on your particular symptoms.
  • White noise devices: Utilizing a white noise device around your home can help you tune out your tinnitus in some cases.
  • Retraining therapy: In some cases, you can work with a specialist to retrain your ears, gradually changing the way you process sound.
  • Relaxation techniques: High blood pressure has sometimes been linked to an increase in the intensity of tinnitus symptoms. So taking some time to relax (with meditation, for instance) can sometimes help decrease your tinnitus symptoms.

There’s no cure for tinnitus. That’s why managing your environment to protect your hearing is a great first step.

But tinnitus can be addressed and managed. Depending on your lifestyle, your hearing, and your tinnitus, we’ll be able to formulate a specific treatment plan for you. For some people, managing your tinnitus might simply mean utilizing a white noise machine. For other people, management may be more intense.

Schedule an appointment to learn how to manage your tinnitus symptoms.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.
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