Symptoms of Tinnitus

The Typical Symptoms, Possible Causes, and Effective Management of Tinnitus

Although almost everyone reading this article will have experienced one of the most common symptoms of tinnitus on at least one occasion, in the vast majority of cases, it will have been an experience that was temporary and one which persisted, at most, for just two or perhaps three days. Most frequently described as a ringing sensation in the ears, it often affects people who happen to be in close proximity to some exceptionally loud noise, such as a gunshot. This can induce a kind of acoustic shock that presents as the characteristic ringing noise. The sound is purely subjective in nature and will not be heard by a doctor when examining the ears of an affected party.

In practice, the ringing sound is just one of the symptoms of tinnitus. Anyone who may have been exposed to some sudden loud noise and been affected by this phantom ringing will invariably have noticed that, in parallel, their hearing also became rather muffled. Fortunately, this too would have been a temporary impairment, and like the ringing, it would have gradually faded.

Experience has shown that this rather annoying ringing sensation in one’s ears is almost always accompanied by some degree of hearing loss, even though it may not yet be sufficiently marked to be evident to the individual in question. It does suggest, however, that anyone who consistently displays the symptoms of tinnitus would probably be wise to make an appointment to see audiologist for a hearing test.

It may come as a surprise to learn that many of those affected are plagued by sounds other than ringing. Clicking, buzzing, whooshing, and whistling are a few of the more mundane alternative phantom noises that have been reported, while some subjects have even revealed that they hear music or voices. Whatever the noise, if it is persistent but not overly loud, it can still prove to be an annoying distraction on occasions and becomes more apparent during quiet periods. When they are both persistent and intense, however, the symptoms of tinnitus can be extremely debilitating, and can interfere with concentration and sleep patterns. In severe cases where the condition is not being managed, over time, these debilities can eventually result in severe depression.

Among the possible explanations that have been proposed for these phantom noises, and one that may best explain their association with deafness is that these sounds may arise as a result of damage to the sensitive hair cells that line the cochlea in the inner ear. Typical of noise-induced hearing loss, the damaged hair cells release certain reactive chemicals that are thought to provoke an anomalous response in the hearing centres of the brain, hence the inappropriate and wholly subjective ringing, buzzing, and whistling sounds that comprise the symptoms of tinnitus.

Whatever the source of these noises, their effects are, at best, a nuisance and at worst, can prevent those affected from enjoying a normal life. It must be said that, to date, researchers have failed to come up with a cure for this condition. Despite this, however, there are now a number of options that have proved to be highly successful in helping affected individuals to cope with these persistent phantom noises.

As stated earlier, the symptoms of tinnitus tend to become more noticeable when ambient noise levels are minimal. It therefore follows that the reverse is true and that other noises could provide the means with which to attenuate them. Interestingly, where there is overt loss of audition, the enriched sound environment provided by a hearing aid will often be enough to mask these internal noises. In a similar fashion, white noise has been applied in a variety of ways to provide subjects with a coping mechanism that has proved to be highly effective. Those who wear a hearing aid may be able to adapt it for this purpose or acquire a model with this facility built-in.

For those who may not possess or require an assisted hearing device, the white noise needed to alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus can be provided with the help of a smartphone and a downloadable app. Alternatively, various collections of suitable sounds are available on CD and can be played through a speaker system.

Among the nation’s foremost experts in the field of audiology and assisted hearing, the healthcare professionals at your nearest Ear Institute clinic are eminently qualified to advise you on the most appropriate way to manage your phantom noises.
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