Nearly every day I talk with someone who has concerns about a sound in his or her ears that won’t stop. Some describe it as crickets or locust, others describe a roaring or static noise and some even hear a particular song. What everyone is describing is called tinnitus. Recent research has shown nearly 20 percent of the adult population suffers from some form of tinnitus or ringing in the ears. Although everyone describes it differently, the root of the problem usually is the same. Hearing loss or damage to the hearing organ results in the perception of tinnitus.
Our ears create sound during the functions of hearing. People with normal hearing typically do not perceive these sounds because external ambient noises mask their presence. As our ears are damaged and hearing loss increases, fewer external sounds are audible enough to mask those internal sounds. This is why there typically is a progression in tinnitus from noticing it intermittently to hearing it only when it is really quiet to hearing it constantly.
Unfortunately there are no proven cures for tinnitus. Several products advertise they heal or stop tinnitus, but there is no research that proves these claims. It has been my experience the best strategies to cope with tinnitus is what we call sound enrichment strategies. Simply put, enrich your environment with relaxing background noise by playing music or turning on a fan. The additional sound stimulates the ear and helps to mask the tinnitus. The best music selections will be those with slower rhythm and no words. Several people like soundscape music, which is tones mixed with environmental sounds like crashing waves or rainforest sounds.
If you suffer from tinnitus and sound enrichment strategies are not sufficient, I recommend starting with a comprehensive evaluation to obtain baseline information and learn more about how to manage your tinnitus. Additionally, I encourage you to visit the American Tinnitus Association at www.ata.org. If you would like more information, please call me at (605) 665-6820.