A lot of people in South Carolina hear a ringing in their ears, and it’s got nothing to do with telephones or doorbells. Tinnitus affects Charelston residents at a rate of about one in every five individuals, but despite its prevalence is still largely understood in the medical community.
There’s Still a Lot We Don’t Know About Tinnitus
Tinnitus isn’t something only associated with modern times. Reports of a ringing, buzzing, roaring, whooshing, hissing, clicking or whistling sound date back to 1600 BC. Bet that made some anxious early humans look over their shoulders with trepidation a few times!
What is tinnitus?
Even though it’s been around pretty much as long as humans have had ears, there is still a lot we don’t know about tinnitus—and this has hampered our progress in finding a cure.
What we do know is this: tinnitus is the sensation of a phantom noise in the ears. It is considered a symptom of an underlying condition rather than an actual disease; there are more than 200 different factors that can contribute to tinnitus.
Risk factors include aging, noise, disease, head and neck trauma and certain medications. Approximately 50 million Americans and about 30 percent of the entire global population experience tinnitus, making it one of the biggest chronic health concerns in the world.
Why hasn’t tinnitus been cured?
There are several reasons why a tinnitus cure has not materialized yet. Without a common tool to measure its effects, doctors are forced to rely on feedback from individual patients describing their symptoms. People’s perceptions vary widely, so an actual diagnosis is next to impossible.
Compounding the matter is the fact that not everybody who is exposed to the same risk factors will develop tinnitus.
Does everyone develop tinnitus in the same way?
Hearing loss and noise exposure are two examples; both are commonly associated with tinnitus, but not everybody who develops a hearing impairment or is exposed to loud noise will end up affected by tinnitus (and not everybody with tinnitus has hearing loss).
Furthermore, those who do suffer from tinnitus don’t always experience it to the same degree. For some people, tinnitus is an occasional nuisance that comes and goes, barely making a ripple in their everyday lives. Others find tinnitus a constant loud distraction that impacts sleep, mood and health. With so much variety, it’s tough to even know where to begin in the search for a cure.
How does tinnitus work in the brain?
Tinnitus is triggered by a complex set of processes in different parts of the brain.
The search for a drug has been stymied because pharmaceutical companies aren’t even certain which region of the brain they should target.
Despite a few promising results in early drug trials, there hasn’t been a single medication that has resulted in consistent, long-term results.
Are there any positive study findings?
Some test subjects who received placebos reported identical results in their tinnitus symptoms! Current research is largely theory-based. It’s going to take a collaborative effort between doctors, patients and academic researchers in order to come up with a better understanding of tinnitus and, ultimately, a cure.
Managing Tinnitus in Charleston
Without a magic pill or other cure, the best way to manage tinnitus is through coping strategies.
What are the most common tinnitus coping strategies?
White noise and tinnitus sound therapy have proven effective in helping patients habituate to tinnitus; introducing other background sounds helps shift the brain’s focus away from tinnitus, so you are able to assign it less importance.
Other strategies include counseling, breathing and relaxation exercises and lifestyle modifications.
In some instances, treating the condition that is responsible for tinnitus will help alleviate the symptoms. People with hearing aids can turn up the volume to compensate for the ringing in their ears.
Do you have tinnitus symptoms? Schedule an appointment with your local audiologist.
If you would like more information about tinnitus, reach out to an audiologist in Charleston.
Learn more about Tinnitus:
- Sound Therapy: Music to Tinnitus Sufferers’ Ears
- Tinnitus: What to Know About That Ringing in Your Ears
Our NE South Carolina Area Audiologists Office Locations
5000 Epson Plantation Dr
Moncks Corner, SC 29461
2005 2nd Avenue
Summerville, SC 29486