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3 Ways Tinnitus Impacts Quality of Life

a woman with ear discomfort

Are you living with tinnitus? Studies have estimated that as many as 50 million Americans experience this condition, which can range in severity from an annoyance to a highly debilitating experience. Many people assume that they have no choice but to try and cope with the condition, but actually it is possible to improve your life with the use of modern digital hearing aids which can relieve the symptoms. Almost one in four people report that tinnitus is having a negative impact on their quality of life, but this is quite easily remedied.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a persistent ringing, buzzing or clicking sound in the ears, affecting around 20% of adults.  But tinnitus isn’t a condition itself, as many people wrongly think – instead, it's a symptom caused by another underlying condition. What causes it can be varied, but it's usually linked to some type of hearing loss.

Less commonly, it can be caused by an injury to the ear, or some circulatory system disorders. The symptoms sometimes get worse with age, but for a lot of people, treating tinnitus successfully is relatively straightforward and can usually be achieved by identifying and addressing the underlying cause. There are also some treatments which reduce or mask the noise of tinnitus, making it less noticeable.

People experience it to differing degrees and will find different treatments more useful. It can affect one ear or both and it may either be constantly present or it may come and go. There are two kinds of tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus is the most common type, and it's caused by problems with the outer, middle or inner part of the ear, sometimes by the auditory nerves and occasionally the part of the brain that interprets nerve signals as sound.

The second type is objective tinnitus. This is a type of tinnitus that your hearing instrument specialist can also hear when they perform an examination. It's a lot more rate, and it may be caused by things such as blood vessel problems, muscle spasms or a bone condition of the middle ear.

What are the causes of tinnitus?

Understanding what has caused you to develop tinnitus is key to getting the right symptoms and easing the condition. Sometimes it is not possible to identify an exact cause, but there are some which are more likely than others. A very common cause is damage to the inner ear hair cells – these move in relation to sound waves, triggering the release of an electrical signal from the auditory nerve to your brain.

This is interpreted as a sound. But if the hairs in your inner ear become damaged, they can start to send random electrical impulses instead, causing a low buzzing or roaring sensation. For the vast majority of individuals, hearing starts to gradually decline with age and this hearing loss can also cause tinnitus – known in the medical community as presbycusis. It may be that you’ve been exposed to an extremely loud noise such as at a concert, using equipment such as a chainsaw without ear defenders or from fireworks – and this can trigger hearing loss. Listening to music with headphones at a high volume for a long time has also been shown to cause noise-related hearing loss.

There is also the possibility of an earwax blockage. Earwax is normal and helps to protect the ear canal from damage by trapping dirt and keeping bacteria out. However, sometimes it can accumulate too much, and in this case, it may irritate the eardrum or cause some loss of hearing which can result in tinnitus.

Other, less common causes can include illnesses such as Meniere’s disease, head or neck injuries, acoustic neuroma, malformed capillaries or high blood pressure. Tinnitus can also be caused or worsened by some medications including antibiotics, diuretics, high doses of aspirin, quinine medications or some used for the treatment of cancer.

How do I prevent tinnitus?

You can reduce the risk of developing or worsening your tinnitus by using hearing protection, especially if you work in a noisy environment or with heavy machinery. Another good idea is ensuring that you turn down the volume when listening to amplified music. You can also support your health and hearing with regular cardiovascular exercise, the right diet and supplements which support healthy blood vessels, as this can help support your body against tinnitus caused by blood vessel disorders. Look into options with hearing aids to reduce or get rid of your tinnitus and improve your quality of life.

Make an appointment with Sparks Hearing and Balance by calling at (775) 546-2264. Professional support can make all the difference in managing this condition.