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Ringing in the Ears

Do you or someone you know suffer from constant “ringing in the ears”?

Maybe it’s not ringing exactly. Some people describe it as hissing, buzzing, whistling, roaring and even chirping. Whatever noise it is, the real issue is something called tinnitus. Tinnitus (“TIN-a-tus” or “Tin-EYEtus”) is the medical term for the sensation of hearing sound in your ears or head when no external sound is present. The important thing to know is that tinnitus is not a condition or a disease. Instead, it’s a symptom — typically of something bigger, like an ear infection, high blood pressure or, most common, hearing loss. It’s also important to know that everyone’s tinnitus is different, which is why finding relief has been so elusive.

Quick Tinnitus Facts

Tinnitus is the number one disability for military veterans. Tinnitus can occur at any age, and may begin suddenly or progress gradually. The most common causes of tinnitus are:

  • Noise exposure (e.g., from shooting or machines at work)
  • Aging
  • Head injury
  • Side effects from medication

The effects of tinnitus are real. Because tinnitus is subjective, it affects people in different ways. For some, it’s a minor annoyance, one they can deal with easily. For others, it can result in more serious issues, such as:

  • Long-term sleep disruption
  • Changes in cognitive ability
  • An inability to concentrate (e.g., completing tasks or reading)
  • Stress in relationships
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Employment challenges

Sound therapy can be effective in treating tinnitus because it may make the tinnitus less noticeable or mask the tinnitus. Hearing aids may be included as a critical component of a sound therapy program. Different products work in different ways. Although most hearing aids can alleviate tinnitus, certain hearing aids have built-in technology specifically for tinnitus relief. Work with your hearing healthcare professional to see which one is right for you. Currently, there is no known tinnitus cure. No surgery or pill has been shown to get rid of tinnitus in any clinically accepted study. According to the American Tinnitus Association, there are ways to get tinnitus relief, including counseling and sound therapy. They recommend that anyone with tinnitus should see an Audiologist or ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) experienced in tinnitus treatment.

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