If you’ve ever been to a loud concert, you’ve probably experienced the strange sensation of hearing ringing in your ears for hours after it was over. While this is incredibly common, for some people it’s the beginning of a lifelong problem. The ringing is actually called tinnitus and affects about 1 in 5 people. With a new generation that seems to live with their headphones blasting, this problem doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in the near future. If you’d rather not live the rest of your life hearing a noise that isn’t there, keep reading for some of the basic facts about tinnitus, including how you can prevent it while still enjoying the occasional concert.
What is Tinnitus?
One of the most important things to know about tinnitus is that it isn’t actually a condition in itself, but a result of an underlying condition. These conditions include hearing loss associated with aging, circulatory system disorders, and ear injuries. If you’re relatively young and experiencing tinnitus, it’s likely due to an ear injury.
Although tinnitus is normally described as a ringing in the ears, any sensation of hearing sounds even though there’s no external sound present can be classified as tinnitus. You may hear it more as a buzzing, roaring, clicking, or hissing, and the sound can vary in volume. Some people experience it as a low roar, while others hear a high squeal. It can be present in one or both ears and can be constant or intermittent. The experience is different for everyone.
Tinnitus really becomes a problem when it starts interfering with your ability to concentrate or hear actual sounds. If your tinnitus reaches this stage, you’ll definitely want to visit a doctor. He or she will diagnose you with one of two types of tinnitus: subjective tinnitus or objective tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus is more common. With this type, only you can hear the sounds. With objective tinnitus, your doctor will also be able to hear it during the examination. This type is likely caused by a blood vessel problem or bone condition and is very rare.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Unfortunately, one exceptionally loud event can be enough to trigger a lifetime of hearing problems. Even if symptoms go away after a specific event, it can cause problems later in life. Noise damage is cumulative, meaning it builds up over time. This is why it’s so important to pay attention to early warning signs and begin combating the problem before it becomes serious.
Exactly how loud events damage the ear is still not fully understood. The basic idea, however, is that noise that’s too loud or lasts too long destroys the hair cells in the cochlea — the tiny snail- shaped bone in the inner ear. These hairs signal the auditory nerve, allowing us to interpret sound. If these hairs are damaged, hearing becomes problematic. The damage doesn’t even necessarily have to be from a particularly loud noise. Long exposure to sounds can cause similar damage, as evidenced by hearing loss in people that have spent years working with lawn mowers, power tools, and fire alarms. You don’t need to panic if you mow your lawn once a week — tinnitus may be caused by long-term exposure to extremely loud sounds.
How can You Prevent Tinnitus?
If you’re looking to prevent long-term damage, earplugs are probably the easiest and most cost-effective solution. Unfortunately, wearing these devices has long been considered “uncool,” contributing to people’s reluctance to wear them during loud events. People often mistakenly confuse plugs with hearing aids and think that people will see them and assume they’re hard of hearing. This, in turn, creates a problem, as ear protection at concerts is pretty much a necessity — especially after you’ve learned a little more about tinnitus. So how can style-conscious concertgoers protect their ears while still looking fashionable?
There are now discreet earplugs on the market that people can wear, without anyone noticing that they’re wearing plugs at all. This will protect concertgoers from permanently damaging their hearing, while also avoiding the embarrassment of obvious earplugs.
How can You Manage Tinnitus?
Learning to live with tinnitus can be overwhelming at first. While there is no cure there are certain things you can do to alleviate your symptoms. First, you can identify what makes it worse for you. Some people have noticed that certain foods, drinks, or drugs can intensify their symptoms. Possible triggers can include caffeinated drinks, alcohol, smoking, and aspirin.
For some, silence may be the worst trigger of all. If this is the case, it’s suggested that you play soft music in the background, listen to the radio, or turn on a fan — playing soothing sounds during moments of silence can help reduce your symptoms. It’s also important to note that tinnitus sufferers should plan time to relax every day. Dealing with tinnitus can be a source of anxiety or stress, which can become a vicious cycle that works to make your symptoms even worse.
In addition to developing your own coping techniques, there are a variety of products on the market that have been designed specifically for tinnitus patients. For example, those with this condition can partake in programs like Widex Zen Therapy. Employing the use of counselling, amplification, fractal tones, and relaxation, Widex Zen Therapy is a comprehensive tinnitus management program that takes a holistic approach and can be tailored to each person’s individual needs. You can learn more about treatment options available for tinnitus here.
Whether you’re experiencing tinnitus yourself or just want to check to make sure your hearing is still where it should be, reach out to the professionals at the House of Hearing. You can book an appointment online or visit one of their locations in Vaughan, Toronto, and Richmond Hill.