Do you ever hear a beeping or buzzing in your ears at random times?
You are not alone, because approximately one million Dutch people suffer from Tinnitus or ringing in the ears.
It is very annoying to be robbed of your silence by a buzzing or shaking. In the long run, it can even have emotional and psychological consequences.
In this article I explain what the causes of your tinnitus can be and I will also tell you which treatments can help reduce tinnitus.
Tinnitus in itself is not actually a disease, but a result of other factors. The origin of the word Tinnitus can be found in the Latin ‘tinnire’ , which means to ring.
This already tells something about the condition, because it means that the patient perceives a persistent sound without there being an acoustic stimulus in the environment.
However, it is not limited to just ringing. Patients may also hear a whistling, buzzing, hissing, crackling, grunting, or different sounds mixed together. The symptoms of tinnitus vary.
Some people barely notice it, while others drive it crazy. To the extent that it harms their profession, social life and other daily activities.
It causes additional stress, insomnia and in some cases loss of concentration. This naturally makes the tinnitus worse, putting them in a vicious circle.
It is generally assumed that the psychological and emotional state of the patient plays a major role in the intensity of the complaints.
Causes of tinnitus or ringing in the ears
As mentioned, Tinnitus is merely the result of another underlying health condition. In most cases, Tinnitus is the result of a reaction in the brain to damage to (almost all parts of) the auditory system.
Simply put: the brain turns up the volume knob because the ears no longer work properly.
In other words, the sound one ‘hears’ is actually produced by one’s own brain. This form is called subjective Tinnitus .
People with the same type of hearing loss may or may not suffer from Tinnitus. Why this is so has not yet been proven.
Many of the causes of this problem are well-known and well-researched, but their exact function and where in the brain it takes place remains controversial.
In the second category of Tinnitus, objective Tinnitus , the patient perceives a real sound that is so subtle that it can only be heard by the patient. All this without special equipment.
It can be a narrowed artery, where the patient hears his own blood flowing, or muscles in the middle ear that contract. It is therefore easier to determine the cause and often this form can be completely cured.
1. Hearing loss
Hearing loss due to noise pollution
People who professionally come into contact with loud noises, such as carpenters, construction workers and other professions that handle heavy machinery, are at high risk of developing hearing damage.
More and more cases are also being registered of young people under the age of thirty who experience complaints of tinnitus.
This is probably because our society produces much more noise pollution and because there is unlimited access to headphones, earphones and therefore: loud music.
Many young people simply like to listen to loud music and the many pop and rock festivals are not always easy on the ears.
Sounds from 80 decibels can already be harmful. However, a single experience with intensely loud sounds does not result in tinnitus in everyone.
Hearing loss due to old age
As people get older, hearing function often deteriorates. This type of hearing loss usually occurs in both ears. High tones can no longer be distinguished. Age-related hearing loss explains why tinnitus is common in seniors.
2. Brain Injury
The second most common cause of Tinnitus is caused by head and neck injuries. A head injury or neck injury can cause problems in the nerves, blood flow and muscles through which Tinnitus is perceived.
There are two categories of head and neck injuries, namely whiplash and traumatic brain injury.
In such traumatic events, the tinnitus can be exacerbated by additional stress and anxiety symptoms.
One of the lesser known causes of tinnitus is otosclerosis. This is a condition of the middle ear in which there is excessive bone growth.
The middle ear is located behind the eardrum. This is filled with air and contains three small ossicles.
Due to their respective shapes they are called hammer, anvil and stirrup, and they are connected to each other.
When external sound vibrations reach the eardrum, it vibrates, causing the ossicles to move and the sound is transmitted to the inner ear, converting the sound into stimuli.
Otosclerosis is an overgrowth of spongy bone tissue in the middle ear that can cause hearing loss and tinnitus.
4. High Blood Pressure
If high blood pressure is the cause of your tinnitus, you usually don’t hear a beep, but rather a rustling or throbbing sound.
Tinnitus can be the result of this if a blood vessel close to the ear is narrowed. You really just hear your own heart beating.
That kind of Tinnitus is called objective Tinnitus because the sound can be perceived by an outsider with amplifying equipment.
The observations around alcohol and Tinnitus are diverse and therefore it is worth mentioning this theme. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to nerve degeneration.
Damage to the auditory nerves or centers in the brain can therefore also be the result of alcohol abuse.
When you are drunk, your vestibular system that is located in your auditory system is also affected, which can cause temporary ringing in the ears.
Usually, excessive alcohol consumption takes place where there is also noise pollution, such as bars, pubs, music concerts, etc.
It is therefore not really clear that alcohol consumption could be the cause of tinnitus.
A study of alcohol use and tinnitus shows:
Among the other most common causes of Tinnitus are:
Can Stress Cause Tinnitus?
No one can deny that there is a connection between the intensity of tinnitus on the one hand and stress on the other.
Several emotional and physical factors, including stress, have been linked to the onset of Tinnitus.
For some people, their condition acts as a barometer for stress, as the symptoms become more unpleasant as they go through difficult periods. Of course, this can make things even more intense and lead to a vicious circle.
Attention and habituation
An interesting way to look at the relationship between stress and Tinnitus is to think about where your focus is.
Every moment we receive hundreds of pieces of information from our environment. The birds chirping, the clock ticking, the sound of our fingers hitting the keyboard, the bright moonlight flooding our bedroom.
We cannot pay attention to all these stimuli at the same time. Fortunately, there is a system in the brain that allows us to select only what we focus on.
The information filtered out is usually unimportant and repetitive. So habituation occurs to those unimportant stimuli.
Conversely, if the information is perceived as threatening and stress develops, it will become more difficult to filter out or get used to this stimulus.
So if that information actually gets an emotional charge and your body gets into a state of stress, the opposite of habituation will take place. Then you become more alert to that stimulus.
Link Tinnitus and Stress
Can you feel the link with Tinnitus and stress coming? People who are not very concerned about their Tinnitus, they will get used to it over time and hardly experience it anymore.
However, individuals who are in a sensitive state and are very concerned about the tinnitus will not be able to take their attention away from it, no matter how much they want to.
If they see Tinnitus as a threat to their well-being, their attention will automatically focus on it.
In those circumstances, you’ll want to keep an eye on it, as you would any other danger. This attention will make your tinnitus sound louder and more intrusive.
It also shows why the intensity of the complaints surrounding this condition varies so much in different people.
Reduce ringing in the ears? The treatment of tinnitus
Living with Tinnitus can be very distressing, although the condition itself does not pose a direct threat to physical health.
Sometimes a specific disease or condition is the cause of your tinnitus, such as Ménière’s disease, a long-term infection of the middle ear or high blood pressure.
If that disease or condition is treated, the tinnitus will stop on its own in the majority of cases.
Sometimes it is difficult to find a medical cause for the tinnitus, and even if the cause is found, it does not say that there is a treatment.
When tinnitus first occurs, it is always good to visit your doctor. He or she may be able to quickly determine the possible cause through a careful ear examination.
Be sure to mention which medication you are taking and what additional complaints you are experiencing. If the cause remains unclear, he can refer you to a specialist.
If hearing loss plays a role in your tinnitus, a hearing aid can offer a solution. There are already ways to mask the tinnitus.
Sometimes it can’t be treated
If the tinnitus cannot be treated, or if it persists after treatment, you will mainly need to change your perception of it.
Even though the cause of your Tinnitus cannot be treated, there are specialized agencies that can give you the keys to help reduce the symptoms.
Competent individuals such as psychologists and therapists with experience in the field of Tinnitus are of great value in the treatment process.
There are centers that have a special treatment program for people who suffer from their Tinnitus.
It also appears to be very effective for combining different therapies. Cognitive-behavioral therapies exist to help you cope with your stress or anxiety.
This helps you establish a relationship between your thought pattern and the Tinnitus so that you learn to cultivate positive thoughts.
Below is a list of steps you can take yourself to reduce tinnitus:
If you can’t get to sleep because of the ringing in your ears, the contrast between the loud stimuli of the day and the silence of the bedroom may just be too great, making the ringing in the ears seem more present.
For many people it helps to use another soft sound to mask the Tinnitus, such as sound therapy or a recording with forest sounds etc.
Because exercise helps fight stress, it will also provide relief from tinnitus for most people.
An active lifestyle will also ensure that you can sleep better at night.
An ideal combination of exercise and mental relaxation are activities such as Yoga, Tai-chi and Pilates. There is a wide variety of ways to be active. Pick something you feel good about.
With mindfulness you do not immediately have to think of sitting still on a mat in linen pants.
Meditation can have miraculous effects on your mental health. This allows you to reduce stress on the one hand and, on the other hand, you learn to deal with your attention more consciously, so that the tinnitus is filtered out over time.
Meditation is any mental practice in which you focus your conscious attention on a sound, object, visualization, breath, movement, or on the attention itself so that your awareness remains in the ‘now’. For some people, this can be dancing, drawing, singing, or conscious walking.
Most importantly, keep your consciousness with it without being attacked by that whirlwind of random thoughts. Regular practice of meditation has been proven to reduce stress, promote a relaxed mind and personal growth.
Most people need guidance with mindfulness techniques. Fortunately, there are plenty of options to find a technique that suits you.
Avoid negative experiences of others
If you’re dealing with Tinnitus, you’ll probably feel a lot better learning about the subject. The fact that you are not alone will certainly help a lot.
When looking for information, it is better not to dwell on the personal experiences of other patients who, for example, talk about treatment failures and their hopelessness on various Internet forums. It can make you depressed and unhappy.
Every situation is different and it could turn out better for you than you think.