Have you ever experienced some ringing in one or both of your ears and wondered what could be the problem? Approximately 50 million individuals in the U.S. report experiencing ringing in their ears. Tinnitus, while a benign condition, is quite common. So, what is tinnitus? When should you worry, and what are the treatments available?
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a condition that involves a steady swishing, humming, ringing, hissing, beeping tones and tunes in one or both ears. Some individuals experience tinnitus occasionally, while others experience this condition throughout. According to the Hearing Health Foundation, tinnitus is a conscious experience of sound coming from the owner’s head; that is, sounds in the absence of an external source.
There are two kinds of tinnitus: chronic (ongoing) and acute (temporary). The latter is usually experienced after fireworks or a concert because excess noise often results in ear damage. However, the sounds usually clear up on their own within minutes or hours. On the other hand, chronic tinnitus usually occurs regularly and can last for an extended period each time.
While tinnitus usually takes place without any underlining reason, some of the common culprits are hearing loss due to ear damage that may result from exposure to wax, loud noise, or ear blockage.
When Should You Worry?
While tinnitus is not a life-threatening condition, the biggest concern, especially for those with recurrent tinnitus, is whether it requires medical attention. As mentioned, the presence of tinnitus, in most cases, indicates that the condition is not something you need to be excessively concerned about it. Of concern, nonetheless, is the unexpected onset of tinnitus in one of your ears, more particularly if that is followed by vertigo or a sudden decline in your hearing ability. Also, if you happen to experience pulsating tinnitus, then you need to seek immediate medical attention as these could be a sign of a tumor affecting a nerve linking the brain and ear.
In short, tinnitus is usually a benign symptom reflecting changes occurring in the auditory system. This includes changes such as hearing loss, which is the most common cause of tinnitus. While this condition is not life-threatening, it is enough to warrant a discussion and screening by a medical professional.
Unluckily, tinnitus has no cure, but this does not mean tinnitus treatment is unavailable. This condition is manageable if you find ways to trick your brain into turning off the sounds. White noise could help, and there are apps available that help by stimulating white noise. It should also be noted that treating hearing loss can result in diminishing tinnitus. Treatment tricks the brain into switching off tinnitus because every other noise is usually enhanced in the environment.
While tinnitus is a common condition among those working in the music business such as music clubs, it can sometimes (though rarely) be linked with anemia or overactive thyroid gland. It can also take place after one suffers a head injury. And although this is not a life-threatening condition, experiencing tinnitus in only one ear should be a sign you need immediate medical intervention since it could indicate there is a tumor affecting the nerve between your ear and brain.