Tinnitus, which is commonly known as ringing of the ears is the awareness of sound from within the ear and not an external source. There are different types of sounds for those who have tinnitus such as a hiss, ring, buzz, whistling or even a roaring. The sounds of tinnitus are also known as phantom sounds. It often occurs with people past the age of 50, but it's not limited to children or young adults either. While the common causes are excessive loud noise exposure, head injuries or even ear infections, this can still indicate serious medical conditions within patients.

How Common Is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a very common hearing condition that affects an estimated 32% of the United States population. This extremely common occurrence can happen to anyone, and the lasting effects can heavily vary per person. It’s normal for tinnitus to happen after going to a concert but seek an audiologist if it lasts for longer than a week.

How Is Tinnitus Diagnosed?

An audiologist will examine your ears and conduct a hearing test. This will entail wearing a set of earphones to one ear at a time while sounds are being transmitted to it. Imaging tests such as a CT scan or MRI could also be used to figure out the cause of the condition.

What Are the Risk Factors of Tinnitus?

There are many reasons why tinnitus can occur. It mostly stems from earwax blockage but it’s not limited to just this, ear infections, loud noises, thyroid issues, head injuries and tumors can also cause tinnitus. While some can ignore tinnitus, if it’s left untreated it could have an impact on your life such as developing concentration problems or getting less sleep. It’s very important to see an audiologist once the ears are ringing for an extended period.

Is Tinnitus Treatable?

There isn’t a cure for tinnitus, but it can be treated in different forms. Your audiologist will attempt to discover any underlying medical conditions that are causing tinnitus. This could involve the use of discontinuing medication that’s at high risk of causing tinnitus, earwax removal, hearing aids with masking features, sound machines and tinnitus retraining therapy. Patients will often need to make lifestyle changes such as medication alternatives, quitting smoking or drinking or even cleaning their ears more frequently. Oftentimes, tinnitus can become easy to live with and it gets easier over time to ignore.

How Can Tinnitus Be Prevented?

It’s important to protect your ears when being exposed to loud noises. Wearing ear protection such as earplugs for any loud noises that are higher than 85 decibels. When using devices such as a TV or computer, be sure to check the volume levels.

At times it can be difficult to avoid loud noises such as at construction sites, so be sure to cover your ears if you’re not carrying any proper ear protection. If you’re needed to take medication, look out for any that can cause tinnitus symptoms. All patients should schedule regular hearing tests with their local audiologist to ensure there aren’t any problems with their ears.