Have you ever listened to the loud, long beep of your television during a national emergency alert system test?
The good news about this annoying, yet necessary test is that it only lasts a few seconds and then before you know it, you're back to watching "The Big Bang Theory."
Now imagine you have to live with that sound in your ears all the time. Imagine you wake up to that sound every morning. Imagine you shower, have breakfast, and hop in your car to go to work and come home to your family with that sound in your head. People would speak to you, and you would struggle to hear them over that incessant buzz. Like a runaway emergency broadcast system, the maddening noise continues unabated, endless and relentless. And there is nothing you can do to stop it.
Tinnitus is an unwanted noise that is believed to originate in the ear or head. It affects many people, including celebrities such as Steve Martin, Rush Limbaugh, William Shatner and Bob Dylan.
Veterans Affairs of Canada says tinnitus regularly accompanies such disorders as presbycusis and noise-induced hearing loss and otosclerosis. It is one of the three symptoms of Meniere's disease. For most people, tinnitus is less bothersome during the day when they are surrounded by noise related to their job or activities. Tinnitus often becomes more noticeable at night and may cause sleep disorders.
The article went on to say that it can be a high-pitched or ringing sound, a whistle, squealing sound, wind, rushing water, transformer hum or chirping sound.
What causes Tinnitus?
According to the Mayo Clinic, several things can cause tinnitus. A common cause of the condition is inner-ear cell damage. Tiny, delicate hairs in your inner ear move in relation to the pressure of sound waves. This triggers ear cells to release an electrical signal through a nerve from your ear (auditory nerve) to your brain. Your brain interprets these signals as sound. If the hairs inside your inner ear are bent or broken, they can "leak" random electrical impulses to your brain, causing tinnitus.
Other causes can be age-related hearing loss, exposure to loud noises, ear wax blockage and ear bone changes.
M.J. DeSousa, Connect Hearing’s Director of Professional Practice, says that tinnitus can strike out of nowhere in some occasions but it's often triggered when people don't protect their hearing.
“The best advice that I can give to people is the same advice that I always offer – give your ears the respect they deserve and protect your hearing,” says DeSousa, who has seen many cases of tinnitus caused by loud noises, especially music. “You must remember that you only have to abuse your ears once to cause serious, permanent damage. If you play in a band or listen to loud music, bring ear protection. If you work around loud equipment or with firearms, bring ear protection. If you work on construction or in security where you might be around loud engines or speakers, bring ear protection. Do everything possible to protect your ears.”
DeSousa added that one reason why Connect Hearing Canada offers free hearing tests to adults is to spread the word about hearing health. The more we can get the message out about hearing health, she says, the easier it will be to prevent tinnitus from happening in the first place.
What are the available treatments for Tinnitus?
Harvard University says that while there’s no cure for chronic tinnitus, it often becomes less noticeable and more manageable over time. There are also several ways to help tune out the noise and minimize its impact on your life.
The most effective approaches are behavioural strategies and sound-generating devices, often used in combination. The article mentioned several strategies for managing the condition, including:
Cognitive behavioural therapy - Techniques such as cognitive restructuring and relaxation to change the way patients think about and respond to tinnitus.
Tinnitus retraining therapy - The aim is to habituate the auditory system to the tinnitus signals, making them less noticeable or less bothersome.
Masking devices - Worn like hearing aids, masking devices generate low-level white noise (a high-pitched hiss, for example) that can reduce the perception of tinnitus and sometimes also produce residual inhibition — less noticeable tinnitus for a short time after the masker is turned off.
Biofeedback and stress management - Tinnitus is stressful, and stress can worsen tinnitus. Biofeedback is a relaxation technique that helps control stress by changing bodily responses.
The best way to deal with the tinnitus is to do everything in your power to prevent it from becoming an issue in the first place. But if you are already dealing with tinnitus, don't despair – there is help available. Pick up the phone and call Connect Hearing Canada today, and they will work with you to reduce the impact tinnitus is having on your life.