That Buzzing Sound
Do you ever experience ringing, buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, or clicking in your ears? You might have tinnitus. Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no actual external noise is present. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that nearly 15% of the general public — over 50 million Americans — experience some form of tinnitus. There are two types of tinnitus:
Subjective tinnitus is usually traceable to auditory and neurological reactions to hearing loss, but can also be caused by an array of other catalysts. More than 99% of all tinnitus reported tinnitus cases are of the subjective variety.
Objective tinnitus is characterized by head or ear noises that are audible to other people, as well as the patient. These sounds are usually produced by internal functions in the blood flow and musculo-skeletal movement systems. Objective tinnitus is very rare, representing less than 1% of total tinnitus cases.
The causes of tinnitus are many and include head and neck injuries, ear infections, a foreign object touching the eardrum, Eustachian tube problems, TMJ, brain injury or cardiovascular disease. You can also experience tinnitus after cumulative noise exposure. Tinnitus can be debilitating, and may lead to insomnia, difficulty concentrating, poor work or school performance, irritability, anxiety, and depression. If you have tinnitus, it’s important to see a doctor to exclude any life-threatening (yet rare) causes of tinnitus, such as heart disease.
For most of us, there is no cure for tinnitus, but if your condition is part of an underlying condition, such as ear infection or TMJ, it’s important to get care for the condition. If you have chronic tinnitus there are things you can do to successfully manage it.
Sound therapy is a broad term that incorporates using external noise to mask the individual’s perception of tinnitus. Low-level background music, white noise, or specialized ear maskers can be very effective. Masking devices are a temporary relief; the awareness of tinnitus returns when the sound therapy is turned off.
Tinnitus Retraining Therapy or Tinnitus Feedback Retraining (TRT) involves retraining the auditory system to accept the abnormal sounds of tinnitus as natural rather than disruptive. This is done with the help of a trained professional and a wearable device that emits low-level white noise. TRT requires ongoing counseling sessions to assist the individual in coping with the tinnitus. Studies suggest around 80 percent of individuals obtained some relief of their tinnitus with TRT.
Yoga therapy is also available for treating tinnitus. Yoga enhances circulation and reduces stress and strain. Yoga stimulates the organs, removes toxins, and protects the body against infection and allergies as it improves immunity. Poses such as Triangle Pose and Downward Facing Dog are beneficial to those with tinnitus.
Make no mistake, anyone can have tinnitus. It’s not an “old person’s problem.” If you listen to music, particularly live music, attend fitness classes, work in a noisy environment, you could have tinnitus. If you are experiencing any “ringing in the ears,” get it checked out and soon.