That ringing in your ears, it may be more severe than you initially think. Slight noise or ringing in the ears is the most common symptom of tinnitus, one of the most misunderstood conditions in audiology. With nearly 20% of Americans experiencing tinnitus, it’s still commonly misunderstood in terms of its origin, if it always leads to permanent hearing loss, and what causes it. These myths and misconceptions surround tinnitus often make it difficult for those experiencing it to understand it and seek out treatment for tinnitus.
What is it exactly? Tinnitus is experienced as minor, unusual sounds in the ear. These sounds can range from ringing, buzzing, clicking, humming, to even a slight roaring noise. However, it’s crucial to note tinnitus itself is not a medical condition but rather a symptom of other underlying conditions, including hearing loss, sinus pressure, obstructions in the ear, or even head trauma. In the digital age, we have access to more information than ever before. A wealth of information awaits each of us at our fingertips; however, sometimes, this can make it more difficult to access accurate, reliable information. With medical conditions, this can be especially problematic. There are many myths and misconceptions that cloud our understanding of tinnitus. Here, we take a look at the two types of tinnitus and then bust some of the most common tinnitus myths.
TWO TYPES OF TINNITUS
First, it’s important to distinguish between the two separate types of tinnitus: subjective and objective tinnitus. As the names suggest, the key difference between the two types is who can hear the sounds caused by tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus is much more common, and only you can hear the noise. With objective tinnitus, someone else, such as a doctor during a check-up, would also be able to hear the noise. What’s important about the difference between the two types of tinnitus is what causes them. While subjective tinnitus is often caused by problems with auditory nerves, objective tinnitus, which is much rarer, is usually caused by blood vessel or muscle contraction issues. Distinguishing between the two types of tinnitus is another reason that it is important to receive trusted medical care and attention when getting a diagnosis.
MYTH 1: TINNITUS IS A DISEASE
One of the most common and widespread myths concerning tinnitus is in determining just exactly what it is. As mentioned above, tinnitus is not a disease, but it is often a symptom of other conditions, such as hearing loss or head and neck trauma. Tinnitus is not a disease that can be cured, but following proper diagnosis can be treated, and it can even raise awareness concerning the often more severe conditions it can be linked with.
MYTH 2: TINNITUS WILL CAUSE ME TO GO DEAF
Many fear that the onset of tinnitus will eventually cause them to go deaf and completely lose all hearing. This isn’t true. While tinnitus is often a symptom of hearing loss, it does not always signify that this hearing loss will evolve into permanent deafness. Like many other conditions, hearing loss is experienced on a spectrum and can be minor. Millions of people live with little hindrance from hearing loss, and the full range of hearing aids can address mild to severe forms of hearing loss. Of course, it’s also worth repeating that tinnitus can be caused by other symptoms, not just hearing loss or deafness.
MYTH 3: ONLY THOSE WITH HEARING LOSS EXPERIENCE TINNITUS
While commonly linked to hearing loss, tinnitus does not always mean you’re losing your hearing. This is one of the most popular misconceptions because while one can signify the other, it doesn’t necessitate it. In fact, tinnitus can be caused by a broad range of underlying symptoms, such as nerve damage, head trauma, or obstructions in the ear. It’s important to realize that tinnitus is not reserved for only those experiencing hearing loss because it could be a sign of a separate condition that requires medical attention.
MYTH 4: HEARING AIDS WON’T HELP
Many believe that once you begin to experience tinnitus, there’s nothing to be done. While there’s no cure or instant remedy to address the ringing in your ears, there are advances in hearing aid technology that can help alleviate the symptoms. One common technique is to use a hearing aid that amplifies exterior noises, thereby drowning out the noises brought on by tinnitus. This can be a particularly useful method for those also experiencing hearing loss. There are also all-natural remedies that have been developed specifically to treat the effects of tinnitus. In recent studies, an improved diet, more exercise, and specific stress management techniques have also been shown to reduce the impact of tinnitus.
MYTH 5: IT’S HARMLESS AND IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD
Tinnitus is often a frustrating symptom because it cannot be experienced by others. Unless you suffer from objective tinnitus (which is far less common), only you can actually experience the ringing or buzzing in your ears. This can make it challenging to confirm that it’s really happening and not just all in your head. However, it’s essential to know that millions of people suffer from tinnitus, and there is a broad spectrum of effects, ranging from mild to severe.
Myths, misconceptions, and simply inaccurate information can all make a medical condition much worse than it has to be. Clearing away the confusion is the first step to understand any medical condition and its causes, symptoms, and possible treatments. This is why it’s so important to debunk the common myths surrounding tinnitus. While often mild, tinnitus can be a symptom of underlying, more severe conditions that should be diagnosed by a trained medical professional. Millions of Americans live with tinnitus, and they can do so more effectively and more comfortably by understanding the condition. Hopefully, debunking many of these common tinnitus myths can be the first step toward clarity.