While hearing aids are excellent for helping people hear sounds that are beyond their reach, many don’t realize that they can also help people un-hear sounds that they cannot stop. Sounds that don’t actually exist at all.
This phenomenon is commonly referred to as Tinnitus, a medical condition where those afflicted hear persistent sounds that aren’t present in the external environment. Most tinnitus sufferers report the subjective sounds as a ringing, buzzing, hissing, whirring, or even chirping noise, but in truth it can be any type of persistent sound that isn’t actually originating from a physical source.
Despite the severe impact that these annoyingly persistent sounds can wreak on a person’s life and well being, many tinnitus sufferers don’t talk much about it, so it can be surprising to learn that one out of every five people are dealing with some degree of this condition. The lack of dialogue about tinnitus is an unfortunate consequence of there being a limited (but growing) number of options for relief, and as of yet- no known cure for tinnitus. This is due to the often uncertain cause of the condition itself, which is often viewed as a symptom of another underlying medical condition.
So what actually causes tinnitus anyway?
Tinnitus can arise from a long list of instigators, but the majority of tinnitus complaints are the result of damage to the ear and/or auditory system. And while hearing loss often accompanies tinnitus, there are over 200 medical conditions that involve tinnitus as a symptom, as well as an assortment of other unexpected causes.
Here is a quick look at some of the most common causes of tinnitus:
Luckily for tinnitus sufferers, there have never been as many options for treatment as there are today. Many patients find relief by using hearing aids specifically designed to mute the persistent sounds, without reducing their overall hearing levels. And since more than 50% of tinnitus sufferers are also dealing with hearing loss, these hearing aids are dual-purpose.
Beyond that there are a multitude of sound therapies, relaxation therapies, drug therapies, and even phone applications to ease the discomfort of living with tinnitus. While there is no complete cure for tinnitus just yet, ongoing research and innovative approaches are bringing us closer than ever.