Many people have experienced a condition called “ringing in the ears.” Often, when encountering loud, sustained noise like a music concert, we leave with the sensation of noise still in our heads. This quickly goes away, and our hearing goes back to normal.
There is a specific form of ringing or buzzing in the ears called tinnitus. This medical condition is the sensation of ringing when there is no noise present. Rather than an aftereffect of noise, tinnitus is a result of misinformation sent by the inner ear to the brain. Malformed or degraded ear structures cause the signals sent through the auditory nerve to be incorrect or “ghosted,” meaning a signal is sent although no sound is there.
Tinnitus can be rated as mild or profound, or various stages in between, like hearing loss, is rated. This condition can be life-changing in its serious and profound states. In others, the phantom sound is not as disrupting.
In many cases of tinnitus, the brain naturally learns to put the “noise” into the background of daily life: if you have visited someone who lives on a river or near a highway, you immediately notice the noise. However, the people who live there generally say they don’t notice it at all anymore. This is a conditioned response to constant noise.
There are treatments for tinnitus, one of which is training the brain to put the constant noise into the background as described above. Another treatment involves creating a counter-sound that masks the tinnitus noise. White noise machines are used at night for this purpose, while radio and television play important roles as masking devices.
Hearing aids are the most common treatment for tinnitus because they can be equipped with a masking feature that can provide all-day relief.
Traditional cognitive therapies are also used in tandem with other treatments to help individuals cope with the stress, anxiety or frustration they may feel from living with tinnitus.
Some medications can exacerbate tinnitus by constricting blood vessels, making the noise louder in your ears. You may be able to change medications for this reason. Treatments such as antidepressants and other medications are available through medical doctors. It is recommended to try counseling and psychotherapy before embarking on this treatment.
Audiology Associates is familiar with all the available treatment options for tinnitus and can help you find the relief you’ve been looking for.