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Tinnitus Causes and Treatments

Author
Daisy Rogozinsky
February 21, 2022

If you’ve ever found yourself sitting in a quiet room, unable to shake the persistent noise or ringing in your ears, it’s possible that what you’ve experienced is a medical condition called tinnitus. It affects between 15 to 20% of Americans, yet this number is even higher for veterans. In fact, according to the VA, tinnitus is the number one disability among veterans. While tinnitus isn’t life-threatening, it can be incredibly irritating and even maddening.

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What Is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is categorized by phantom noise heard in the ears that usually sounds like one or more of the following:

  • Ringing
  • Roaring
  • Hissing
  • Humming
  • Buzzing
  • Clicking

This can occur in one or both ears and vary in pitch from low to high. It may be present at all times or come and go. In the worst cases, tinnitus can be so loud that it makes it difficult for the sufferer to concentrate, relax, or even hear other, external sounds. 

There are two types of tinnitus. 

  • Subjective tinnitus. This is the much more common type of tinnitus: tinnitus that only the individual can hear. It might be caused by a variety of things including problems in the ear or auditory nerves or problems with the auditory pathways in the brain.
  • Objective tinnitus. In this much less common form of tinnitus, the doctor can actually hear the sound when examining the ear. This can be caused by blood vessel issues, middle ear bone conditions, and muscle contractions. 

What Causes Tinnitus?

In some cases, an exact cause for tinnitus can not be established, although there are a number of health issues that are known to cause or aggravate tinnitus. Here are some of the possible causes of tinnitus.

  • Exposure to loud noise. Loud sounds like music, explosions, and heavy equipment can contribute to both hearing loss and tinnitus. Short-term and long-term exposure to loud noise are both capable of causing permanent damage.
  • Age-related hearing loss. Progressive hearing loss is common around age 60 and often may cause tinnitus.
  • Traumatic brain injury. Physical trauma to the brain can cause tinnitus by damaging the auditory nerves.
  • Earwax blockage. Earwax is a normal and healthy bodily function that protects the ear canal, but when it accumulates in excess, it can cause irritation to the eardrum and/or hearing loss, which may lead to tinnitus.
  • Ear bone changes. Abnormal bone growth or a stiffening of the bones in the middle ear can cause tinnitus. 
  • Meniere’s disease. Meniere’s disease is an inner ear disorder caused by abnormal inner ear fluid pressure, and it is often associated with tinnitus.

Treatments for Tinnitus

As tinnitus can be range from a mild nuisance to significantly impeding one’s day-to-day activities, it’s entirely natural for sufferers to seek treatment. Thankfully, there are multiple treatment options.

The first approach is to suppress the noise. This can be done with:

  • White noise machines - White noise machines which work by stimulating environmental sounds, or other devices that create noise such as fans and humidifiers, have been used as an effective treatment against tinnitus.
  • Hearing aids - When tinnitus is accompanied by hearing loss, the use of hearing aids can be helpful.
  • Tinnitus retraining - These devices are made to mask tinnitus sound by delivering individually programmed tonal music.
  • Masking devices - Worn in the ear like hearing aids, masking devices produce constant, low-level white noise to suppress tinnitus symptoms. You can think of them as an in-ear white noise machine.

Another treatment option is to use medication. While they can not cure tinnitus, medications may help reduce the severity of symptoms. Options for medication include:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants. These are usually only used for severe tinnitus.
  • Xanax. While it can reduce tinnitus symptoms, Xanax can also be habit-forming, so it is often only prescribed as a last-resort option.

Finally, there are some other lifestyle adjustments and home remedies that people have reported as helping their tinnitus. These include:

  • Avoiding irritants like loud noise, caffeine, and nicotine
  • Managing stress
  • Taking melatonin, a hormone that helps with sleep
  • Taking zinc supplements
  • Taking B vitamins
  • Reducing alcohol consumption
  • Acupuncture treatments
  • Contacting veteran-focused hearing loss support foundations

You May Be Entitled to Compensation for Your Tinnitus

As mentioned above, tinnitus is quite common amongst veterans who are often exposed to loud noises such as gunfire, machinery, aircraft, and other combat-related noises. Many also experience traumatic brain injuries from things like explosions. As a result, hearing loss and tinnitus are very common disabilities amongst the veteran population. 

The U.S. Army did try to prevent hearing loss by distributing 3M dual-sided combat arms earplugs to servicemen and servicewomen, but these plugs had a serious defect that actually caused hearing injuries. If you or somebody you know wore these 3M earplugs in the U.S. Army and suffered hearing loss and/or tinnitus as a result, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.

Free Case Evaluation

If you or a loved one were harmed by 3M Earplugs, you may be entitled to compensation.

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