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Understanding Tinnitus: That Ringing in Your Ears.

You know that annoying “ringing in the ear” you get for a while after experiencing a lot of loud noise at a concert or a sporting event? When the noise can be long over, but that sensation of noise is still there? In the world of hearing health, we call that experience “tinnitus.” Loud noises are just one of the ways people develop it.  The sound sensation can also take several forms, including ringing, buzzing or hissing.1

For some people, tinnitus never goes away. That’s not to say you’re going to walk away from your next concert with a permanent case of tinnitus, but we do urge you to wear some sort of hearing protection anytime you’re going to be around loud noise (that includes the time you spend behind your lawn mower; mowers and power tools can easily pass the 85-decibel threshold at which sound becomes dangerous).

Over time, such exposure can cause something of an overload that leaves the brain under the impression that there is sound being produced when there isn’t any to be heard. Other environments that can pose the threat of tinnitus include: workplaces with loud machinery, gun and hunting ranges, and loud music being played through earbuds. But tinnitus isn’t just about noise trauma. It can also be brought on by sudden hearing loss, age-related hearing loss, and certain medications that are known to be “ototoxic”.1,2

Tinnitus isn’t just annoying. Depending on its severity, it can lead to a host of psychological issues, including: frustration, distress, irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and poor concentration. 1,3,4

While tinnitus cannot be cured, there are very successful techniques for managing it. Hearing aids and sound generators that essentially distract tinnitus sufferers from the sounds they think they hear are very efficient. Other options include, relaxation therapy and counselling.1,5,6

1 Langguth, B., Kreuzer, P. M., Kleinjung, T., & De Ridder, D. (2013). Tinnitus: causes and clinical management. The Lancet Neurology, 12, 920-930.
2 Noreña, A. J., & Farley, B. J. (2013). Tinnitus-related neural activity: theories of generation, propagation, and centralization. Hearing Research, 295, 161-171.
3 Geocze, L., Mucci, S., Abranches, D. C., de Marco, M. A., & de Oliveira Penido, N. (2013). Systematic review on the evidences of an association between tinnitus and depression. Brazilian Journal of otorhinolaryngology, 79, 106-111.
4 Robinson, S. K., McQuaid, J. R., Viirre, E. S., Betzig, L. L., Miller, D. L., Bailey, K. A., … & Perry, W. (2003). Relationship of tinnitus questionnaires to depressive symptoms, quality of well-being, and internal focus. The international tinnitus journal, 9, 97-103.
5 Hoare, D. J., Kowalkowski, V. L., Kang, S., & Hall, D. A. (2011). Systematic review and meta‐analyses of randomized controlled trials examining tinnitus management. The Laryngoscope, 121, 1555-1564.
6 Shekhawat, G. S., Searchfield, G. D., & Stinear, C. M. (2013). Role of hearing aids in tinnitus intervention: a scoping review. Journal of the American Academy of Audiology24, 747-762.