When there is a ringing or buzzing sound in your ears that doesn’t come from any external source and lasts for a long time, you may be affected by a medical condition called tinnitus. While it may last for a short time in most people, it may be a chronic issue for some.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that over 50 million Americans suffer from tinnitus. That accounts for around 15 percent of the population. Approximately 20 million people have chronic tinnitus, while around two million suffer from an extreme form of the disease.
There are two types of tinnitus:
In this type of tinnitus, noises are heard in the ear or head and perceived only by the patient. It is generally associated with hearing and neurological reactions to hearing loss. However, medical experts say it can be triggered by other catalysts as well. This type of tinnitus forms 99 percent of all cases reported in the country.
In objective tinnitus, head or ear noises can be heard by the patient and other people. Some internal functions create these sounds in the body, such as the circulatory system and musculoskeletal movements. Objective tinnitus forms around one percent of total tinnitus cases and is extremely rare.
A patient may suffer from tinnitus for a variety of reasons. These include:
The physician will examine whether the condition is triggered by any medications or underlying health issues such as hypertension. The patient may be referred to an ENT specialist for further testing. These tests may include:
There is no treatment currently available for chronic tinnitus. Physicians and ENT specialists often focus on ways to minimize the noise and discomfort experienced by the patient. After an overall health evaluation, the physician will treat any underlying problems causing the problem. Diet, exercise routine, and sleeping pattern are also evaluated.
Using ear protectors can help avoid loud noises. A hearing aid accurately tuned and adjusted to cancel ambient sounds can improve the condition and make the humming, or hissing, sound less apparent.
Most patients find that tinnitus becomes more irritating when they are stressed. That’s why meditation, yoga, and other relaxation techniques can help people deal with the problem better. Patients can manage the condition more effectively with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Acceptance Therapy.
In a recent clinical trial, researchers discovered that sound and electrical stimulation of the tongue help minimize the effects of tinnitus. It was also found that the therapeutic effects can last for up to 12 months after the treatment.
The interdisciplinary medical journal Science Translational Medicine published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) featured the research as its cover story. It can potentially help millions of people suffering from tinnitus worldwide.
If you are suffering from tinnitus and would like more information, connect with LAENT here.