This ringing in my ears… will it ever stop?
Tinnitus can wreak havoc on lives, yet it can be difficult for others to understand. You cannot “see” tinnitus such as pulsatile tinnitus in any outward form, but for patients who experience it, the condition can be detrimental to their overall health and well-being, even leading to depression and anxiety—especially as there is no tinnitus treatment. Tinnitus can disrupt sleep, cause stress, and leave sufferers in desperate search of a cure.
That’s where the bad news comes in: there is no cure. Not yet at least, though there is growing hope for a cure by 2020. Recent research initiatives and increased pharmaceutical research are on the horizon, which is good news for the millions of patients who suffer from this burdensome condition.
In the meantime, these FAQs about tinnitus may provide a greater understanding of the underlying causes of tinnitus such a damaged ear canal or noise-induced hearing loss due to loud noises in your place of work, whether it will ever go away permanently, and how it can be managed with lifestyle changes, medications or alternate tinnitus treatment therapies and natural remedies.
Why did my ears start ringing in the first place?
This is one of the most challenging pieces of the tinnitus puzzle: there are so many factors involved that a process of elimination may be necessary to identify the underlying cause of tinnitus.
Tinnitus, which is derived from the Latin word for noise/sound, happens to millions of people for a variety of reasons. While commonly described as a ringing in the ears, it can also create a buzzing, hissing, or even beeping noise in the inner ear, and only in rare cases can it be heard by an outside observer. There are also different types of tinnitus, including…
- subjective tinnitus
- objective tinnitus
- neurological tinnitus
- somatic tinnitus
In the case of objective tinnitus, for example, which can occur if you have a heart murmur, your physician may also be able to hear the whoosh sound through a stethoscope.
The ringing in your ears, or other similar distracting loud noises, can be the result of an injury, a circulatory condition, a buildup of earwax, the use of a particular medication, an exposure to loud noises, or age-related hearing loss. Tinnitus can also be caused by disorders such as Meniere’s disease, compromised blood flow, problems with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and acoustic neuroma (a tumor on the cranial nerve). Men are more likely to suffer from tinnitus and smokers are an at-risk population as well.
What can I do to make the ringing stop?
There is no one treatment of tinnitus, but there a wide variety of options which may provide some relief. Assessing the source of the tinnitus should be done in conjunction with a physician in order to determine the best treatment.
Some simple lifestyle changes can provide relief, from a smoking cessation program to increased physical activity and proper rest. Tinnitus sufferers who are especially sensitive to its effects at night may use “white noise” machines to try to drown out the tinnitus for better sleep.
Physical therapy, stretching exercises, and massage may ease the tinnitus in some cases, and alternative remedies, such as essential oils, can provide relief as well.
The removal of earwax buildup and/or treatment of an ear infection could ease the effects of tinnitus, and discontinuing the use of oxotoxic medications (drugs that are “toxic to the ear”) may address the issue effectively. It is important to note that discontinuing medications should be supervised by a physician. Stopping some medications abruptly can lead to serious side effects and health concerns that could be more detrimental than the presence of tinnitus.
Over-the-counter supplements such as Liopflavanoid are considered to reduce the effects of tinnitus, though they should always be discussed with a physician first. Some supplements and vitamins can interfere with existing medication or cause serious side effects.
Is tinnitus permanent?
Tinnitus can occur intermittently and go away on its own or for some it can be a chronic and persistent issue. When tinnitus is chronic, there is a high likelihood that the individual will face growing anxiety and even depression. Seeking ways to combat the emotional impact of tinnitus is equally important as these can become co-dependent. Whether you choose to work with a psychiatrist, meditate or practice yoga or breathing exercises, you should recognize the need to manage depression and anxiety alongside the tinnitus.
While in many cases tinnitus is short-term or intermittent, it can be permanent and chronic. In those cases, the adoption of tinnitus management techniques becomes a necessary part of life.
Do I need to contact my doctor about tinnitus?
If tinnitus is persistent, interfering with your daily routine or causing anxiety and stress, you should certainly involve your physician. Tinnitus may be the key to discovering an underlying, more serious health issue that needs to be addressed promptly.
Will tinnitus cause me to lose my hearing?
Tinnitus is in most cases associated with some degree of hearing loss, but it is not an indication that the individual is going deaf (though this is a natural concern for many when they first experience tinnitus!). Most short-term cases of tinnitus will eventually resolve naturally.
Will a hearing aid stop my tinnitus?
Again, there is no cure for tinnitus; however, in some instances, hearing aids can work to mask and essentially reduce tinnitus. If a tinnitus sufferer has experienced hearing loss, the hearing aid allows the individual to pick up more natural sounds from their surroundings. This acts in a way to cover up the tinnitus sounds to a degree, almost as if the hearing aid becomes a white noise machine, with the white noise being the external sounds around them, such as the whir of an air conditioner or fan. Being able to pick up more of these external sounds can lessen the impact of the internal sounds.
Can I have surgery to make the tinnitus go away?
Unfortunately, there is no surgical option that is effective, with the exception of an acoustic neuroma removal, which is a rare cause of tinnitus.
What can I do for relief from tinnitus?
Stop smoking, use ear protection, engage in a healthy lifestyle with adequate exercise and rest, and evaluate the medications which may be exacerbating or causing your tinnitus. Seek the input of your physician and, if appropriate, consider natural remedies such as essential oils or supplements, too.