If you experience the pesky ringing, hissing, whistling or buzzing in your ears known as tinnitus, you understand how bothersome it can be. According to the CDC, as many as 50 million Americans – about 15 percent of the population – experience this condition. There are many myths surrounding tinnitus; below are the top ones you may have heard and the truth behind them.
Myth: Tinnitus Is a Disease
Truth: Tinnitus is not a disease itself, but rather it is a symptom of another underlying condition. Tinnitus has been linked to a wide variety of factors including noise exposure, neurological issues, vascular disease, Meniere’s disease, traumatic brain injury and ototoxic medications. There is no cure for tinnitus unless the underlying condition can be identified and treated; however, there are many management options available.
Myth: Only People with Hearing Loss Have Tinnitus
Truth: While there is a strong correlation between hearing loss and tinnitus, many people who experience tinnitus do not have hearing loss. Tinnitus is common for people who are exposed to loud sounds like a rock concert or an explosion; however, this tinnitus should be temporary, and if it doesn’t go away after a day or two you should see an audiologist. You may also experience tinnitus while taking certain medications.
Myth: There Is No Relief from Tinnitus
Truth: As stated above, there is no single cure for tinnitus, but there are many options that help provide relief. Lifestyle modifications like exercise, dietary changes and mediation have helped reduce symptoms for many people, and tinnitus maskers and hearing aids are effective for concealing the bothersome sounds. Sound therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy and tinnitus retraining therapy are also extremely helpful.
Myth: Tinnitus Is All in Your Head
Truth: This is partially true, as your ears and your brain are also in your head. Tinnitus is often the result of damage to the stereocilia of the inner ear – tiny hair cells responsible for converting soundwaves into electrical energy that is interpreted by the brain as sound – that causes them to misfire, essentially sending sound signals to the brain when there is no external source. While the sound source may not be real, the perception of sound very much is.
Myth: Tinnitus Is Harmless
Truth: For people with severe, chronic tinnitus, the condition can be debilitating. In fact, musician Huey Lewis reported in an interview that his tinnitus, triggered by Meniere’s disease, is so severe he was at one point suicidal. If your tinnitus is causing you anxiety, depression or anguish, it is important to seek treatment right away.
For more information about options for treating tinnitus, schedule an appointment with the Hearing & Balance Center at Charleston ENT today.