Tinnitus is the clinical term for a ringing noise in the ears. Although it is not limited to ringing and you may hear buzzing, whistling, roaring, whirring or hissing as well. These noises are not external and are caused by a change in the transmission of the signals from the ear to the auditory cortex, a part of the brain where sound is processed. The pitch and level of tinnitus can be high or low and vary over time.
Causes of tinnitus
There are a number of factors that can stimulate tinnitus. Some of them are
Exposure to loud noise
Ear or head injury
Ear infection or other diseases
Side effects of certain medications
Types of tinnitus
There are two types of tinnitus – subjective and objective.
Subjective tinnitus is the common type and can only be heard by the person with this condition.
On the other hand, objective tinnitus is rare and can be heard even by the person examining someone with the condition. Objective tinnitus can be caused by physical effects like increased blood flow in the ears or spasm in the muscles of the middle ear making it audible to the one closely examining.
Getting rid of tinnitus
Some of the best remedies to try to get rid of tinnitus are
Limiting the sound
While using ear protection like mufflers and earplugs in noisy environments can help prevent tinnitus from getting worse, listening to soft, distracting sounds like fan or radio static can help make it bearable. Alternatively, you can also opt for sound masking devices that fit in the ear and play white noises, pink noises, soft and other ambient music.
Cognitive behavioural therapy
Tinnitus can be one of the symptoms of emotional stress. People suffering from anxiety, depression or insomnia can develop the condition commonly. Initially developed for depression and other psychological issues, CBT is proven to help you with tinnitus. It can help you relax and accept the sounds and make them more tolerable.
Tinnitus retraining therapy
This therapy helps by retaining the auditory system to accept the noises caused by tinnitus as natural and make them less audible. The therapist explains how the auditory system works and uses sound therapy. For this therapy, a device is inserted in the ear that generates environmental sounds and low level noises matching the volume and pitch of the tinnitus in the patient’s ear. The treatment can last up to one or two years depending on the severity of the condition.
Biofeedback with stress management
Tinnitus and stress go hand in hand. If you’re already undergoing stress and develop tinnitus, the condition may worsen and increase stress levels. On the other hand, increased stress levels can worsen tinnitus as well. Biofeedback can help you relax and control stress levels by changing the way the body responses. Electrodes are attached to the skin that pass information about physiological processes like pulse, muscle tension and temperature into a computer that you can check on a monitor. You are taught how to alter these processes by changing your feelings and thoughts, thereby reducing stress.
While there is no cure for this condition, there are a lot of ways by which you can accept the noises and make them bearable. Practicing mindfulness and learning how to control your thoughts help reduce both tinnitus and stress.