It is believed that more than 35 million Americans suffer from the hearing ailment, tinnitus. Many doctors consider it to be a symptom rather than a disease. So what exactly is tinnitus? Tinnitus is the condition when ringing, buzzing, whistling, hissing or any other noise is heard in the ear, when there is no such noise in the environment. Earlier it was believed that tinnitus affects only those people who are more than 40 years old. Things have changed over the years, now young people exposed to loud amplified music or sound, frequent doctors with complaints of tinnitus. The bothersome ear noises can be soft as a whistle or loud enough to be completely draining. Tinnitus can have a far reaching effect on a person’s over all health. Tinnitus can lead to sleep disturbances, concentration problem, and sometimes the problem gets so acute that a person has to forgo any kind of social life. Tinnitus is not considered to be a disease, but a symptom that tells that something is gravely wrong with the auditory system. There are a lot of theories which discuss the causes of tinnitus, but the actual reason has not been found out yet. No one has been able to tell where the sound originates from, yet it cannot be termed as the patient’s imagination. Whether it is due to physiological or neurological disorder is yet to be established. Tinnitus can occur for short duration or permanently, either in one ear or both the ears whatever it is, no fixed cure has been found out.
Now the million dollar question arises, what causes or triggers tinnitus? Loud music, concerts, gunshots, long-term exposure to noise from welding equipment, power saws, jackhammers, vacuum cleaners, power mowers, snow blowers and some kitchen appliances may cause tinnitus. So a continuous exposure to loud noise can trigger tinnitus. Apart form continuous exposure to sound, allergies, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, ear wax buildup, tumors, Meniere’s disease, medications (sometimes too much aspirin) and old age might also cause tinnitus. Irregularities in blood vessels around the ear lead to noise when muscles contract in the ear. Sometimes tinnitus can be cured if it is caused due to earwax buildup, high cholesterol or the presence of a tumor. If those conditions are cured, then on might be cured of tinnitus.
A complete medical history of the patient is taken, as well as screening for hearing loss or other deficiencies is done. Sometimes if the case demands a formal hearing test maybe done.
Hyperacusis is the condition when a person can’t tolerate normal everyday sounds. A person suffering from hyperacusis may at times find that some sounds are more difficult to listen to, and certain sounds cause pain in the ears. Generally the sounds that bother a person with hyperacusis don’t bother others. Even the everyday sounds like alarms, bus brakes, silverware and dishes, children’s screams, and clapping can be a cause of major discomfort. The condition may sound amusing, but at times hyperacusis can be so grave that people begin to avoid any public, or social setting in a futile attempt to protect their ears from any sounds. Things which we take for granted like driving a car, walking down the street, riding a bicycle, watching TV, listening to stereo, speaking over a telephone or microphone, shopping, dining at restaurants, taking vacations might seem like a herculean task for a person suffering from hyperacusis. It has been noticed that generally hyperacusis affects only one ear at fist, but within a short time, the other ear too gets affected. It has been seen that a person who has hyperacusis generally has tinnitus, or develops it.
Hyperacusis can come slowly or suddenly, there is no fixed pattern. Some people develop hypersensitivity to sound over a period of time, others get hyperacusis suddenly after attending a rock concert, firing a gun, fireworks or after hearing any extremely loud sound. Sometimes job related noise exposure, drugs, Lyme’s disease, Meniere’s, TMJ, head injury or postoperative surgery can also cause hyperacusis. In some instances people are born with sound sensitivity, have a history of ear infections, or come from a family that has had hearing problems. Some of the other causes of hperacusis are; severe head trauma, surgery, ear irrigation, adverse drug reaction, Williams syndrome, Autism, Bell’s palsy, Asperger syndrome, minor head injury, chronic ear infections and others.
A thorough physical examination, and the medical history of the patient is taken down. A hearing test or audiogram is done to determine a person’s ability to hear sounds at different frequencies. However it has been noticed that a persons with hyperacusis don’t appear to have any hearing loss as measured, and recorded on an audiogram.
Treatment for Tinnitus and Hyperaccusis
Listed on this website are many treatments currently available for tinnitus and hyperaccusis. We make no guarantee regarding the effectiveness of these and provide them only for educational and informational purposes.
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