Top 10 Myths about Tinnitus by Lisa Packer, staff writer, Healthy Hearing

If you are one of the millions of people in the world that has tinnitus, you know it can impact everything from your work to your family and social life. That constant ringing in the ears can also lead to stress and depression.

Tinnitus is the perception of sound when no actual sound is present. For many, tinnitus is characterized by ringing in the ears, but it can also manifest itself in different sounds such as whistling, buzzing or hissing.

Knowing tinnitus facts is a great way to get on a path towards relief.

According to the American Tinnitus Association, tinnitus sufferers in the United States number in the millions, with the CDC estimating that almost 15 percent of people have tinnitus to some degree. And with so many people suffering from tinnitus, it is more important than ever to be able to distinguish fact from fiction. Knowing the truth about tinnitus can give you the best chance to effectively approach the condition and reduce the symptoms in order to improve your quality of life.

Myth: Tinnitus is an incurable disease

This is not completely true. Tinnitus is not a disease in itself, but is sometimes the result of any number of underlying medical conditions. Loud noise, neurological damage, vascular disease, or even traumatic brain injury are just some examples of health issues that can contribute to tinnitus. Tinnitus can also develop as a reaction to certain medications. And while it is true that there is no “cure,” there are treatments available that will lessen the symptoms and make tinnitus easier to live with.

Myth: I can just change my diet and my tinnitus will go away

While some feel that certain additives and foods such as alcohol, sodium and caffeine can aggravate tinnitus, they are not usually the root cause. It is always important to overall health to eat a balanced diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, but tinnitus needs to be addressed separately. Tinnitus management strategies can include dietary and lifestyle changes, but these alone won’t “cure” tinnitus.

Myth: There is nothing I can do about tinnitus

There is something you can do! Research into tinnitus is ongoing, and treatments are constantly evolving and improving. Whether your tinnitus is mild, moderate or severe, an audiologist can offer solutions and treatments to help lessen the symptoms and make your condition more manageable. In addition, other healthcare professionals may be able to diagnose and address the health issues that might be causing the tinnitus in the first place.

Myth: Only those with hearing loss get tinnitus

Yes, those with hearing loss can also get tinnitus, and they are often related. But it is also possible to get tinnitus without having hearing loss. If you are exposed to very loud noise, such as a rock concert or an explosion, you might experience temporary ringing in the ears. And certain other medical conditions or use of medications can cause tinnitus as well. Even if you don’t think you have hearing loss, it is still worth getting checked out by an audiologist.

Myth: Everyone with tinnitus eventually goes deaf

Tinnitus and hearing loss can coexist but are separate conditions. Just because you have tinnitus doesn’t mean you have hearing loss, and even if you have hearing loss, it doesn’t mean you are going deaf. Hearing aids are a great solution hearing loss and can often manage tinnitus symptoms at the same time.

Myth: Tinnitus is always a ringing in the ears

The truth is that tinnitus sounds are not the same for everyone. Ringing is most common, but so is buzzing, whooshing or humming. Tinnitus sounds can even vary per individual from day to day.

Myth: Hearing aids won’t help with tinnitus.

The truth is that is that new developments in hearing aid technology can address both hearing loss and symptoms of tinnitus by increasing the sounds of external noise, thereby masking the internal sounds of tinnitus.

Myth: There are pills you can take to make tinnitus go away

Unfortunately there is no “magic pill” that you can take to cure tinnitus. But there are ways to manage tinnitus that can lessen the symptoms and make them manageable. Advances have been made in sound therapy with great success, for example. Other ways to manage the symptoms include hearing aids, meditation, stress management techniques and changes in diet and exercise.

Myth: Tinnitus is only from listening to loud music or using earbuds

While listening to dangerously loud music, or any excessive noise for that matter, can result in tinnitus, there can be many different causes. People of different ages, races, health statuses and socioeconomic backgrounds get tinnitus, and quite often there is no obvious reason. In other words, just because you don’t listen to loud music or use earbuds doesn’t mean you are immune.

Myth: Tinnitus is all in your head

Just because others can’t “see” your tinnitus, and there are no test results that will show the presence of it, doesn’t mean it isn’t all too real. Millions of people worldwide suffer from tinnitus, and it can vary from mild to debilitating. Don’t suffer in silence. There are experts that can help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

KATHERINE POLLARD, AU.D., ONE OF OUR AUDIOLOGISTS AND OUR TINNITUS SPECIALISTS IS AVAILABLE TO HELP YOU WITH YOUR TINNITUS.

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