Nearly everyone has experienced a ringing in the ears, sometimes after a loud concert or movie, but for some Americans, noises perceived from within the ears never quiets down. Understanding a condition with phantom noise, or noise that only the patient can hear — which has no clear, identifiable causes has been baffling for many researchers. Finding relief for tinnitus sufferers is a journey that will continue, but today, we’re talking about what we know today about the condition, and what hope could lie ahead for the millions affected by this condition. |
What is tinnitus?
Idiopathic tinnitus is a condition where sufferers perceive a phantom sound when no real, external noise is present. Some people may describe tinnitus as a “ringing in the ears,” but the truth is that this condition can exist as a multitude of different perceived sounds, such as a whooshing, whistling, buzzing, or clacking noise. Pulsatile tinnitus is a perceived pulsing noise that often is in rhythm with a patient’s heartbeat, and come sometimes be caused by brain or ear injuries or illnesses. Tinnitus can be both temporary or chronic.
Who does it affect?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that over 50 million people in America have tinnitus to some degree. They also estimate that about 20 million people have “burdensome chronic tinnitus,” while two million may have debilitating tinnitus. People regularly exposed to loud noises can be at risk for developing tinnitus, such as musicians or people who work with loud machinery. It’s also very prevalent among American veterans. However, there really is no “cause” for tinnitus. In most cases, doctors cannot pinpoint what triggered or caused tinnitus to occur.
What are the treatment options?
Tinnitus has no cure, since there is so much about this condition that is not understood. Today, many ear, nose, and throat specialists focus on helping patients either mask the sound or simply cope with the ongoing phantom noise.
Treatment may first begin with eliminating the possibility of a brain injury, tumor, or inner ear injury. If no cause is found as to where the sound could be originating, doctors will focus on helping to improve the patient’s quality of life. When tinnitus contributes to hearing loss, a hearing aid may be fitted, which can sometimes improve phantom noise symptoms. Sometimes, introducing more noise to the ear can help drown out the tinnitus symptoms. Recently, certain hearing aids have been designed that can create steady white noise to drown out some or all of tinnitus symptoms. Other patients may regularly practice sound therapy exercises with music or other noises.
What is the future of tinnitus research and treatment?
Since very little is known or understood about this condition, researchers must first develop a better understanding of who tinnitus affects and their characteristics, to begin to draw patterns as to why and how this condition develops. From there, they can begin better pinpointing who is at risk, and what preventive measures could help stop the development of tinnitus in the future.
More research about sound therapy and other coping techniques will help to improve the lives of those patients living with tinnitus, with millions of sufferers hoping for a breakthrough that could be the cure for this frustrating and misunderstood condition.
If you believe you may be suffering from tinnitus in the Boca Raton, FL area, contact our practice to schedule an appointment with Dr. Bradford Ress. As one of the area’s leading ENT doctors, Dr. Ress can help you on your journey to living a more peaceful life with tinnitus. Call us today at (561) 353-7377.
Related Articles -
tinnitus, ear nose and throat specialist, hearing loss,