You know that deafening, ringing sound you usually hear right after you leave a concert? Imagine that sound was perpetually reverberating through your eardrums long after the concert was over — like, days after the fact. For some, this is actually a reality, due to an ear condition called tinnitus, which can be incredibly distracting and sometimes even severe. That being said, it's important to be aware of the signs of tinnitus, so that you can make sure you get the care and treatment you need if you notice symptoms of this surprisingly common condition.
"The word 'tinnitus' comes from Latin, meaning 'to ring,'" Steve Eagon, an audiologist and Eargo’s head of sales operations, tells Elite Daily over email. "Tinnitus is the perception of sound by a person when no actual external noise is present."
According to Eagon, tinnitus can present itself as either a temporary condition, or as a constant, ongoing health issue. He adds that millions of Americans experience tinnitus, often to a severe degree, making it one of the most common health conditions in the country, he explains. More specifically, research published in The American Journal of Medicine found that roughly 50 million people in the U.S. experience tinnitus in one form or another.
While tinnitus is commonly referred to as “ringing in the ears,” Eagon says the condition is actually described by many people as various perceptions of sound, including buzzing, hissing, whistling, swooshing, and clicking. These are the typical signs you should be on the lookout for, the audiologist explains, though, "in some rare cases," he tells Elite Daily, "tinnitus patients report hearing music." Pretty wild, right?
Whether tinnitus presents itself as ringing, whistling, or even as a musical hallucination, Eagon says the condition is most noticeable when a person’s surroundings are quiet, particularly when going to bed or waking up in the morning — which is why, he explains, "for those who find tinnitus debilitating, it can keep one from sleeping, functioning in a work setting, focusing on conversations, and tinnitus can create general stress and anxiety."
In general, says Eagon, the vast majority of of tinnitus cases fall into one category: subjective tinnitus. "[This means] head or ear noises that are perceivable only to the specific patient," the audiologist tells Elite Daily. "Subjective tinnitus is usually traceable to hearing loss, but can also be caused by an array of other catalysts like long-term noise exposure, head trauma, sudden impact noises (explosions or gunshots), and some medications."
Unfortunately, as of right now, there aren't any scientifically validated cures for most types of tinnitus, Eagon tells me. "There are, however, treatment options that can ease the perceived burden of tinnitus, allowing patients to live more comfortable, productive lives," he explains. And while the condition is very commonly associated with hearing loss, the two aren't always linked, Eagon says. "For most people," he tells Elite Daily, "tinnitus is merely a distraction or nuisance."
But if you're worried that you may have tinnitus, and you're concerned it could lead to hearing loss in the long-term, "someone’s first step toward finding a treatment option should be a hearing test or screening," Eagon recommends. If a screening does reveal signs of hearing loss, the audiologist says your doctor may get you fitted for a hearing aid, such as Eargo Max, which would not only alleviate any hearing problems affecting your everyday life, but would also help to “mask” any ringing or buzzing sounds you hear as a result of tinnitus.
Other treatment options, according to Eagon, include bedside sound generators (if your ability to sleep is affected), dietary modifications, and, in some cases, special noise generators that are meant to be worn as hearing aids throughout the day.
If you think you might have tinnitus, and you feel like it's genuinely affecting your everyday life, be sure to make an appointment with a licensed hearing professional, who can help guide you through the best treatment options.