That Constant Ringing in Your Ears Explained
Often referred to as ‘ringing in the ears’, tinnitus can be many different types of sound such as hissing, chirping, or whooshing.
What these sounds all have in common is that they are only audible to the person who is suffering from tinnitus. This is because tinnitus is a symptom of damage or dysfunction inside the hearing system. There are many possible causes, one of which is exposure to loud noise.
More than 80% of people with tinnitus also experience some degree of hearing loss. However, many tinnitus sufferers are not aware that they have hearing loss. Fortunately, experts are able to treat both conditions using hearing aids that can play soothing relief sounds.
Why do we ‘invent’ noises that aren’t there?
Experts don’t know exactly what causes us to hear sound that is not there. Many suspect that it happens when the auditory system reacts to damage by trying to compensate for missing signals. In fact, the most common cause of tinnitus is damage to the sensory cells in the cochlea. This is the snail shelllike organ in the inner ear where sounds are converted into electrical signals. Damage to the hair cells here can cause tinnitus and hearing loss.
However, some people who experience tinnitus don’t have hearing loss; this means that there is more than one cause. Tinnitus can also be caused by a middle ear infection, earwax build-up, inflamed blood vessels around the ear, medications and other drugs, anxiety and stress. Recent research suggests that the condition of having tinnitus in both ears may also have a genetic basis, especially in men.
How can we prevent tinnitus?
Even if you do not have tinnitus, you may have experienced a temporary ringing in your ear after exposure to one or multiple loud sounds. As with hearing loss, the best way to prevent tinnitus is by wearing hearing protection whenever you are in a situation where noise could be dangerous. In addition, it’s important to move away from the noise as often as you can or for as long as you can. Noise levels exceeding 85dB pose a risk to your hearing health. In general, if you are in an environment that requires you to raise your voice to maintain a conversation, that environment is probably too loud.
If you suspect you have tinnitus…
The best first step is to visit a hearing care expert. It may not be easy to describe what your hearing to your hearing professional, but be prepared to explain when you started hearing the ringing, whether hearing problems followed, whether the sound is high or low pitched, loud or soft, whether the sound changes throughout the day and whether the ringing is in one or both ears.
Finally, book a free, no obligation appointment with a hearing expert to begin the process of treating what may be tinnitus.