While tinnitus is rarely a sign of a more serious condition, the phantom chirping, ringing, and buzzing you hear is undeniably bothersome. It’s also incredibly common. The Mayo Clinic reports that tinnitus affects about one in five people. There are numerous causes of tinnitus – frequent exposure to loud noises, a buildup of ear wax, old age, medications, etc. – and there are also many things that make tinnitus worse.
What Is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. That means the buzzing or clicking sound you hear is just an annoying phantom. Tinnitus is not a condition itself; it’s actually a symptom and can be the result of something as common as age-related hearing loss. While tinnitus is bothersome, it’s rarely a warning sign of something serious. There are two kinds of tinnitus:
- Subjective tinnitus is tinnitus only you can hear and is the most common version of the ailment.
- Objective tinnitus is tinnitus your doctor can actually hear during an examination. This is a rare form of tinnitus. According to the Mayo Clinic, objective tinnitus can be caused by a blood vessel problem, a middle ear bone condition, or muscle contractions.
Because tinnitus is simply a phantom sound, you don’t always hear a distinct ringing noise. Patients have reported hearing ringing, buzzing, clicking, hissing, and roaring, and the noise’s pitch can change from low to high. While these phantom noises are often a mere annoyance, in some instances, tinnitus has interrupted a patient’s ability to hear actual noises. Tinnitus can also appear in one or both ears, and it’s not always present. Some days it can be a constant hindrance, but other days it can appear to clear up. Most people have experienced tinnitus at some point in their lives.
Things That Make Tinnitus Worse
Of the things that make tinnitus worse, exposure to loud noises is perhaps the most common and well known. It explains why short-term episodes of tinnitus are especially common after attending concerts. Of course, frequent exposure to loud noises can also cause permanent tinnitus. Many musicians (including Sting, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Moby, and Barbara Streisand) have been diagnosed with tinnitus for this reason.
According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, some medications can cause or worsen tinnitus: “Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs taken in high doses can cause tinnitus that goes away when the drug is discontinued.” Drugs that have a toxic effect on the ear or its nerve supply are known as ototoxic medications.
The article goes on to list several other things that make tinnitus worse including jaw clenching, teeth grinding, and muscle tension in your neck. Even your physical health has been linked to tinnitus. If stress and sleep habits are triggers, treatments like massage therapy and meditation may help reduce the phantom noises.
The good news is that tinnitus can often be treated, eliminating the phantom noise or reducing its severity. Some cases of tinnitus clear up on their own, especially when the phantom noises appear after exposure to loud sounds, such as a concert. But when tinnitus persists for six months or longer, it is considered chronic.
Treatment will vary depending on the cause of your tinnitus. In some instances, massage therapy or a trip to your audiologist (to clear out impacted ear wax, for example) can clear up a case of tinnitus. If a medication has caused your tinnitus, the phantom noises will typically disappear when you stop taking the medication. In other cases, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) may reduce or mask the phantom noise. This form of therapy attempts to retrain your brain so that it perceives tinnitus in a different way.
Do you suffer from tinnitus? If you live near Limon, Pueblo, or Colorado Springs, Colorado, contact Apex Audiology today. Dr. William F. Herholtz will assess your condition and make recommendations to help you cope with tinnitus and other hearing ailments. To get started, please call us at 719-247-9000 or schedule an appointment online. We look forward to connecting with you!