Tinnitus affects up to 20% of people and is a common problem that can cause a lot of discomfort. It is essentially the perception of a ringing sound or noise in the ears and can get worse as we get older. Learning all about tinnitus can help to improve understanding of what is more often than not a symptom of another condition, such as age related hearing loss or an ear injury, rather than a condition in itself.
What does tinnitus feel like?
If you have tinnitus then you may be hearing sounds even though there is no external sound present. This could be a buzzing or humming, ringing, clicking or roaring. It may be quiet or very loud and you might be hearing it in either one or both of your ears. Each of these sounds may have a different cause, for example clicking may be the result of muscle contractions in and around the ear while a high pitched ringing may be because you have been exposed to a very loud noise.
Seeing your doctor for tinnitus
Your doctor will be able to help diagnose the cause of the tinnitus and find a treatment to lessen its impact. Go and see a doctor if your tinnitus is impacting negatively on your life. It’s especially important to seek medical help if tinnitus occurs suddenly and without any apparent reason or is accompanied by hearing loss or dizziness. There are a number of treatment options that you can explore with your doctor where tinnitus is concerned, including:
- Looking at whether any medication you’re taking may be causing your tinnitus
- Getting any impacted earwax removed to help ease symptoms
- Identifying any underlying vascular conditions and taking steps to treat these
- Using white noise to suppress what you’re hearing so that it affects you less. There are a number of different ways to do this, including with a hearing aid, using white noise machines or masking devices, which are designed to deliver a continuous stream of white noise that will suppress tinnitus symptoms.
- Medication. There is some medication that can help to improve the symptoms of tinnitus although it’s not possible to use drugs to cure this completely. For example, some Tricyclic antidepressants have been used successfully in cases of severe tinnitus.
How can you help yourself?
If you suffer from tinnitus there are some steps that you can take at home to help minimise the impact that this has on your life. For example, you can limit how much nicotine and caffeine you consume as this can make it worse. Alcohol is another culprit when it comes to escalating the impact of tinnitus as it dilates the blood vessels and causes greater blood flow, especially in the inner ear. Stress can also make tinnitus worse so taking steps to help yourself feel calmer can have a big impact.
Tinnitus is a common problem but not one that has to get in the way of enjoying your life – there are steps you can take, and help your doctor can provide, to make things easier.