Tinnitus: a growing issue

According to the American Tinnitus Association (ATA), over 45 million Americans struggle with tinnitus.

The prevalence of tinnitus grows as people get older, probably due to both age-related hearing loss and accumulative noise-induced hearing loss. As such, seniors are particularly prone to developing tinnitus as they age. Research suggests that roughly 30% of seniors experience tinnitus symptoms.

Read more to learn what is tinnitus and what you can do to seek treatment.

What is tinnitus?

Tinnitus is defined as “the perception of sound in the absence of external sound.” This basically means that sounds — ringing in ears, whistling or buzzing — can only be heard by the person affected.

There are two types of tinnitus:

  • Acute tinnitus: Sudden onset of ringing in the ears, with no explanation, and lasting less than three months. Any sudden change in your hearing or ears should lead you to an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT). This includes acute tinnitus, any noticeable change to your sense of hearing or the sound of the world around you. Many ailments are totally treatable — but they need to be treated early.
  • Chronic tinnitus: A consistent ringing in the ears, lasting longer than three months. We strongly recommend consulting a hearing care professional who is trained and experienced in treating tinnitus patients. These professionals have in-depth knowledge of different tinnitus treatment options and will thoroughly discuss your individual needs and possible solutions with you.

Causes of tinnitus

Tinnitus is not a disease, but rather a symptom of some other underlying health condition. According to ATA, potential causes of tinnitus could include:

  • Loud noise exposure
  • Head/neck trauma
  • Presbycusis (hearing loss due to aging)
  • Ototoxic medications
  • Common ailments (i.e., anemia, allergies, impacted earwax, diabetes)

High risk groups

While anyone can develop tinnitus, below are some of the groups that are at risk of developing it.

  • Senior citizens
  • Musicians and music lovers
  • People employed in loud workplace environments
  • Active military personnel and veterans
  • Motorsports and hunting enthusiasts

Untreated tinnitus

While some people can ignore their tinnitus most of the time, leaving it untreated can put a strain on your well-being. It can lead to stress, concentration problems, sleeplessness, social isolation and depression.
The best solution is to seek out a hearing care professional. Through a series of tests, he or she can help provide the next steps to treat your tinnitus.

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