Have you ever gone to a concert and your ears continued to ring long after the concert was over? The ringing eventually goes away. But what if it didn’t?
Approximately 50 million Americans have permanent tinnitus or ringing in the ears. In fact, tinnitus is the most common service-connected disability for Veterans.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, clicking, roaring, or rushing sound in the ears.
Tinnitus is not a disease, but instead a result of some other condition like hearing loss from noise, exposure to explosions, hearing loss from age, infections in the ears or sinuses, head or neck injuries, cardiovascular problems, stress or anxiety, or certain medications.
Strategies for Coping
There is no cure for tinnitus but treatment options are available to help Soldiers cope.
- Counseling programs can be individual or group sessions. They can help you manage tinnitus by changing the way you react when you hear the ringing. One of the goals of counseling is to make the tinnitus less bothersome.
- Hearing aids can be used for individuals with tinnitus and hearing loss. Hearing aids allow you to hear better and may make the tinnitus less noticeable.
- Sound generators can be used to help you relax or fall asleep. Sound generators produce soothing, repetitive, sounds. Some sound generators can be worn in the ear and resemble a hearing aid in appearance. These also produce a gentle sound like a “hissing” noise.
Risk Factors for Tinnitus
Many people experience tinnitus now and then but there are factors that can increase your risk.
- Loud noise exposure. Exposure to loud noise can damage delicate structures of the ear. It is important to protect your hearing with ear plugs when exposed to loud sounds.
- High blood pressure. Health conditions, such as high blood pressure or narrowing of the arteries, can increase your risk of tinnitus.
- Hearing loss from age.
- Gender. Men are more likely to experience tinnitus than women.
- Smoking. Smokers have a higher risk of tinnitus.
If you think you have tinnitus, contact a medical professional for an evaluation and to learn more about your treatment options.