We all experience ringing in our ears from time to time. And while we might wish that what we were hearing was the joyous bells of a celebration, when the sound comes from inside the years, that’s not the case. The fact is that tinnitus affects about 15% to 20% of people and is more common in older adults. For most people, the condition is temporary and will go away almost as quickly as it started. But for others, that ringing in the ears may require medical treatment as it could be related to an underlying condition.
There are Two Types of Tinnitus
The first thing to remember is that if you hear ringing outside your ears, that isn’t tinnitus. This condition originates from the inside of the body, though where it originates from can vary. However, understanding the type of tinnitus you have can help determine the right treatment plan to relieve you.
Non-pulsatile tinnitus – This type of tinnitus is subjective and is caused by abnormal activity in your auditory cortex. The noise can vary from ringing to buzzing and can change in pitch and quality. In most cases, this results from your brain trying to fill in missing sensory information.
Pulsatile tinnitus – This tinnitus is more objective as it involves noise from the blood vessels near your ear. And this type of tinnitus is far less common than non-pulsatile tinnitus. People with this condition often say they can hear their heartbeat or pulse in their ear, which can be alarming due to the ear’s distance from the heart and major arteries.
Your tinnitus May Require Medical Attention
If you are experiencing ringing in both of your ears that goes away after a few seconds, there is no reason to be alarmed. However, a call to your doctor might be a good idea if the problem doesn’t go away on its own and is associated with hearing loss, dizziness, ear pain, or a headache. In most cases, your doctor will send you for a hearing test or audiogram to determine if there is hearing loss or another condition that requires attention.
If the audiologist determines that your condition is hearing loss, then treatment such as a hearing aid will often be recommended. However, a tinnitus disability is not the same as SSD (social security disability) hearing loss which is typical for those that served in the military. And in these cases, you may be eligible for VA disability benefits for tinnitus.
Tinnitus Can Be Treated
If you are suffering from tinnitus, know that it can be treated. When tinnitus is combined with hearing loss, a hearing aid can help mask that ringing in your ears. And if you aren’t experiencing hearing loss with that ringing in your ears, masking devices can provide background sound to help block out the unpleasant ringing. In other cases, your physician might recommend sound therapy to remove the emotional response to various sounds.
Those that suffer from tinnitus can experience a mild sound yet have a strong emotional reaction that makes even the mildest ringing unbearable. The tinnitus becomes virtually unnoticeable by removing the emotional response to the sound. Practicing good physical health habits can also help lessen tinnitus’s impact.
Underlying Health Issues Can Have Tinnitus as a Symptom
Tinnitus is a symptom of many different health issues, especially hearing loss. Here are just some of the more common ways that people with hearing loss also develop tinnitus;
aging, exposure to loud noises (heavy equipment operation, explosives, gunfire, etc.), ototoxic medications, and Meniere’s disease which effects balance and hearing.
You may also develop tinnitus without hearing loss if you have one of the following conditions; TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), a foreign object lodged in your ear (broken lead off a pencil, fuzz from a cotton swab, etc.), excessive earwax can block your ear canals, Otosclerosis (growth in your middle ear), allergies that cause congestion, or Vestibular schwannoma (acoustic neuroma).
By better understanding tinnitus, you can know what to look for and whether or not you need medical attention. A brief ringing in your ears does not require medical attention. However, suppose you are experiencing that ringing for longer than a few seconds, which is associated with any other bodily discomfort. In that case, it is best to contact your physician to discuss the next steps.