Have you ever wondered if the phantom buzzing/ringing you sometimes hear has a name? Or if anyone else has experienced the same thing? Tinnitus, as it’s known, is not curable, but you have options when it comes to ways to treat tinnitus and better manage the condition.

Tinnitus is incredibly common, with a 2023 study finding a 26.1% prevalence of tinnitus among nearly 5,000 participants. It can range from a persistent but manageable nuisance to a severe condition that greatly interferes with daily life. If you’re one of the many people who struggle with it, you know that even a mild case of tinnitus can be annoying, disruptive, and worthy of professional treatment.

In my own practice, I have countless patients come in with complaints of a ringing or buzzing in their ears, not even knowing it could be tinnitus, in addition to other hearing loss concerns. In these cases, we discuss what tinnitus is, why it occurs, and their treatment options to get relief and feel normal again.

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is the perception of sound without any external source. Most commonly, it is described as a ringing, buzzing, whooshing, or clicking noise and may affect both ears or just one.

The types of tinnitus symptoms vary depending on cause, severity, and co-occurring conditions. Phantom sounds may be loud or soft and may or may not be associated with general hearing loss or sensitivity.

As part of the process of diagnosing and treating tinnitus, a hearing care professional will work with you to pinpoint your exact symptoms, as well as any other concerns you might have, such as sleep disturbances or difficulties concentrating as a result of the phantom sound(s) you’re hearing.

How Often Does Tinnitus Occur?

“What does the ringing in my ear mean?” is one of the most common questions we get in hearing care. That’s due to the prevalence of tinnitus, especially among older adults (though children can get the condition, too). Usually, these sounds last for at least five minutes and occur one or more times per week. Tinnitus is considered to be chronic when it persists for at least six months.

Why Does Tinnitus Occur?

So, why does tinnitus occur? There are several unique causes that could be to blame. These include:

  • Exposure to loud noises
  • Age-related factors
  • Earwax build-up
  • Ear infections or injuries
  • Head, neck, or brain injuries

Less common causes include certain medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories like aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as some antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs, among others. Some underlying health conditions can also lead to tinnitus, including diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and high blood pressure.

Getting a proper diagnosis is a must when you’re dealing with the symptoms of tinnitus. A hearing care professional should be able to help you identify the root cause of the condition, discuss your treatment options, and, if necessary, refer you to other relevant health specialists.

How to Manage Tinnitus

As mentioned earlier, we do not currently have a cure for tinnitus. Instead, a hearing care professional will work with you to identify and treat the potential cause of your specific symptoms. They can also recommend specific ways to manage tinnitus and keep it from interfering with your quality of life.

Your hearing care provider may recommend the following:

  • Medical interventions – This includes hearing aids and/or management of medications you’re on that could be causing your symptoms. There are also therapeutic interventions like tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT) and cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) that could be helpful.
  • Lifestyle changes – An overall healthy lifestyle may lessen the severity of your tinnitus. Many providers suggest exercising, eating a healthy diet, and managing stress to lessen or distract from symptoms.
  • Holistic approaches – Alternative mindful practices like meditation, yoga, or even hypnotherapy may be effective at keeping the symptoms of tinnitus at bay.
  • Noise suppression – White noise machines and other noise masking tools can help to make tinnitus less disruptive and are particularly useful at bedtime.

Equally key is to prevent further damage by limiting exposure to loud noises whenever possible and wearing ear protection in situations where loud noises cannot be avoided.

Get Local Treatment for Tinnitus

Tinnitus cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Those experiencing tinnitus should consult with a HearingLoss.com certified provider to get an accurate diagnosis and uncover the underlying cause.

If you are in Michigan, we invite you to schedule a consultation with our team at Allied Hearing. We provide personalized hearing care dedicated to your needs, with qualified support for treating the troublesome symptoms of tinnitus. For your convenience, we have locations in Alma, Midland, and Mt Pleasant, and new patients are always welcome.

Being proactive about treating hearing concerns like tinnitus is an important step in hearing loss prevention. Browse HearingLoss.com for additional resources, including a free online hearing test and an easy-to-search directory for finding hearing care professionals in your area.

About the author.
Dr. Shannon Smith - Au.D.

Allied Hearing — Mt. Pleasant, MI; Alma, MI; and Midland, MI.

Dr. Shannon Smith has been a clinical audiologist for the past 30 years, so she has unique insight into how to help her patients achieve their greatest success. A Central Michigan and Michigan State University graduate, Dr. Smith provides unparalleled care by using best practices and taking the time to get to know each patient. She knows that exemplary care comes from using creativity and paying attention to minor details for every patient. Her days revolve around her wonderful husband and co-owner, Patrick, daughter, Lexy, and dog Sadie. A little-known fact: She once chased a purse snatcher and caught him (and would not recommend that anyone else attempt that). All three of Dr. Smith’s practice locations are HearingLoss.com certified, further showcasing her expertise and commitment to excellence in the field of hearing care. Learn more about Dr. Smith and Allied Hearing:  Mt. Pleasant, MI; Alma, MI; and Midland, MI.

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