According to scientific research, Tinnitus itself is not a condition but an underlying condition that affects about 15 to 20 percent of people. An example is ear injury, a disorder in the circulatory system, or loss of hearing caused by the aging process. The condition is known to bother the affected, but it’s never a sign of hearing impairment, but it worsens as a person continues to age. It’s critical to note that this condition is treatable.
In the medical field Tinnitus is often diagnosed into 2 types: subjective Tinnitus (a form of Tinnitus whereby only the affected individual can hear, and it’s caused by problems in the inner, outer, and middle ear. Other causes of subjective Tinnitus are problems with parts of the brain used to interpret nerve signals and problems with the auditory nerves) and Objective Tinnitus, which is a complex form of Tinnitus whereby even the Doctor conducting the examination can hear the Tinnitus sounds. It’s caused by muscle contractions and problems related to the blood vessels.
The exercise starts with an audiologist transmitting sounds through a set of headphones to each patient’s ear. In this case, the patient should raise the hand or make similar gestures whenever he/she hears the sounds.
From the results provided by the Audiologist, the Doctor will examine the ears and diagnose the causes of the condition by comparing the results provided (in terms of what the patient heard during the exercise) to what the patient’s age mates should be able to understand.
The Doctor is also required to conduct imaging tests, for example, the MRI scans to determine whether there are deformities or images to the ears.
Symptoms of Tinnitus:
The symptoms of Tinnitus involves the act of hearing imaginable sounds that do not exist. They differ from high pitch to low roars, and an individual can perceive them either by the two ears or one. Some of those sounds include:
Buzzing is a low but continuous murmuring of sounds or Humming.
Clicking refers to making short but sharp sounds caused by the muscles’ contraction around and inside the ear.
Hissing refers to emitting sharp, prolonged sounds of letter S emulating a snake or steam under pressure through a small opening.
Humming refers to a distinct human tune that is created orally with closed lips. The sound usually contains vascular fluctuations in origin, and they arise when the positions of the individual changes in the body.
Ringing is a sound that is either low pitched or high pitched. The low pitched is generally caused by Meniere’s disease, while the high pitched is due to exposure to loud noises.
Refers to aloud deep noise mainly due to pain or anger or strong emotions
Causes of Tinnitus:
For many years the leading Tinnitus cause has not been found, but health-wise, several conditions are known to worsen or cause it. The following are the most common causes of Tinnitus.
1. Exposure of a person to loud noise over long periods
Loud noises, especially from firearms, discos, power saws, and heavy machinery, are the most common causes of hearing impairment. On the other hand, portable music devices such as the mp3 players, when played at an uncontrolled volume, may also lead to the loss of hearing. It’s critical to note that the exposure of a person to long-term and short-term noise leads to Tinnitus, but the short term exposure naturally disappears while the long run leads to permanent hearing impairment.
2. The damage of the inner ear hair cell of an individual
The hair cells, especially the hidden ones, are very delicate about their high sensitivity to the pressure of sound waves. The hair cell works in the following way: When a sound wave triggers the hair cells, they release an electrical signal through the auditory nerve in the ear, which moves to the brain. The brain interprets those signals as sounds; hence whenever the hairs inside the ear are broken or bent, there is the release of random electrical impulses to the brain, which causes Tinnitus.
3. Blockage of the ear wax
The work of the ear wax in the human body is to protect the ear canal and slow down the growth of bacteria in the ear. The ear wax achieves its function by trapping dirt, which gets into the ear. Naturally, when the air wax accumulates inside the ear, it becomes hard and washes away. But in the case of Tinnitus, the ear wax accumulates but becomes too hard to wash away hence leading to hearing impairment and irritation of the eardrum.
4. Changes in the ear bones
It is usually when the bones of the ear, especially in the middle ear, stiffen. This process is known as otosclerosis, and in most cases, it’s inheritable. The stiffening affects the sense of hearing in a person hence causing Tinnitus.
5. Hearing impairment caused by the aging process
This condition is widely known as presbycusis, which refers to the cumulative effect of hearing caused by the aging process and mostly affects people around the age of 60. This condition is known to be progressive; hence it’s never irreversible leading to Tinnitus.
6. Dysfunction of the Eustachian tube
It is a condition whereby the small passage which connects the throat of an individual to the middle ear gets plugged. This tube keeps a balance between the air pressure inside and outside the ear, leading to the muffling of sounds in the ear, causing ear pain, leading to Tinnitus. This condition, caused by pregnancy and radiation therapy.
Effects of Tinnitus
A patient with Tinnitus experiences: trouble in concentration, depression, anxiety, stress, fatigue, and sleep problems.
Prevention of Tinnitus:
It’s critical to note that most cases of this condition can’t be prevented, but one can take certain precautions, which may reduce the risk of contracting this condition. Some of those precautions include:
1. Maintaining the health of the cardiovascular
It can be attained by conducting exercises, consuming a balanced diet, and partaking several steps to keep the blood vessels healthy, including the reduction of Cholesterol intake.
2. By using white noise machines
White noise machines refer to devices that produce stimulated, environmentally friendly sounds, such as ocean waves and falling rain.
3. Ensuring the volume is at an optimum level
The volume is maintained by ear protectors or by reducing the exposure time to amplified music. One can also achieve this by eradicating the use of headphones when listening to music.
4. Tinnitus retraining
It involves the usage if a device that produces individually programmed tones of music with specific frequencies to mask loud sounds. This criterion helps an individual get accustomed to Tinnitus hence reducing the amount of focus placed on it.
5. By reducing the alcohol consumption
It is because alcohol dilates an individual’s blood vessels, increasing the force of blood pumping, leading to an increase in the body’s flow of blood. Based on Tinnitus, this process affects the inner parts of the ear; hence reducing alcohol consumption leads to a reduction in the risks of contracting Tinnitus.
6. By managing the level of stress
A lot of stress worsens Tinnitus hence stress management through exercise. Feedback and relaxation provide relief to the affected individual
7. By using hearing protectors or earmuffs
It mostly applies to employees who use loud types of machinery or firearms and the musicians who care about loud sounds that damage the ears’ nerves, leading to the loss of hearing, hence causing Tinnitus.
8. By masking devices
The masking devices are similar to hearing aids worn in the ear. They help in producing optimum amounts of volumes, which help suppress the symptoms of Tinnitus.
Treatment of Tinnitus:
For a Doctor to be able to treat this condition, he/she should first identify any similar situation that may be associated with the symptoms. If the state of health causes this condition, the following are the steps followed:
1) Changing of the prescribed medications
Some of the medications that may lead to this condition include anti-malarial drugs, specific antibiotics such as Gentamicin, and certain anti-cancer drugs, such as Vincristine. If the medicine the patient consumes is the cause of this condition, the Doctor should either reduce the drug dosage or switch to different medications.
2) Complete removal of the ear wax
It helps in the ear canal opening, hence reducing the growth of bacteria, thus protecting the ear canal, which reduces the Tinnitus.
3) By treating the blood vessel condition
In most cases, this process usually requires surgery or medication to treat the condition. It’s vital to note that this condition (Tinnitus) may disappear regardless of the cause for some people, but it may be long term for others. It usually applies when the auditor’s nerves of the patient are destroyed. There is no definite answer to how long the condition lasts, but consultation with an Audiologist helps an individual determine the correct rehabilitation protocols hence efficiently treating it.