Silence is a much underrated gift that many of us take for granted.
Everywhere we go, we are surrounded by noise, whether it be from TV, music directly into our ears, road works, traffic…you name and the noise pollution that clutters our minds is quite simply extreme.
Of course our brain does a magnificent job at filtering out much of the background racket that pollutes our ears, but it still cannot leave us in silence.
However when we truly want complete peace and quiet, we can often find solace in our homes (if they are properly insulated), noise cancelling earplugs (which actually create more noise, but that cancels out the background to create quiet), or even just getting into our cars and closing the door!
This is a pretty long article and unless you are super interested in Tinnitus; you may want to check out now 🙂
Silence is a rare commodity, but one that we can find if we look hard enough.
Unfortunately, this is not the case for sufferers of what is known as Tinnitus. Suffering from this issue, means a never ending cacophony of noise, even when in soundproof booths. There is always the underlying noise.
These unwelcome sounds can come in the form of hissing, shrieks, whining, clanking and many other different sounds. There is no 1 single sound that suffers will hear.
For those of you that are fortunate to not have this chronic issue, you may have heard it before.
Remember the last time you were at a loud venue, a concert or motor sport show. The ringing in your ears afterwards is something similar to what someone with Tinnitus might hear on a daily basis.
In other words…it sucks.
Most people will suffer from some mild form of Tinnitus throughout your lives, but up to 25% of the population will have it as a chronic illness. What is worse, up to 6% will find it to be debilitating to their lives.
Luckily, there are ways to reduce the impact that it has on your lives and even though I am sure that you have tried many, many times before, perhaps without success, you may find some new methods in this post to help alleviate it.
If this is you, then you can skip ahead by using the contents, to find some medical and natural ways to help reduce symptoms, and even some methods to cope with the stress.
I know that most of you folks reading this, will probably have already been to see your doctor about it, but also been turned away by a disinterested physician who does not want to spend the time figuring out some of the more natural and holistic ways to help.
In fact most of the time, I am certain that you have probably been told to just get on with it and lie with it…
What is Tinnitus?
Essentially, it is a constant, background noise that you carry around with you and one that never seems to disappear.
It can begin as annoying, but for some, it can fast become a dreadful, disabling medical issue that slowly drives you mad.
What Does Tinnitus Mean, What is its Etymology?
Its full, classical name from the 1600’s, is Tinnitus Aurium simply meaning “Ringing of the Ears”. It is derived from the Latin root: Tintinnabulation…of the sound made by ringing bells.
Is it Caused by Technology & The Modern World?
This is a common strain of thought, but contrary to this idea, it is quite simply not true.
Tinnitus has been recorded as an issue going back…well going back to as long as there have been records in existence.
For instance, can you imagine 1,000 years ago, when 20,000 soldiers facing off on a battlefield would shout, scream and smash metal together with metal?
The amount of noise this would produce would be enough to make many of these poor fellows have serious hearing problems if they survived the melee.
However there is also several records of instances dating back to the ancient Egyptians and further, about men and women suffering with noises in their heads that would not disappear.
There is also an interesting thought that, whilst not mentioned directly, could also be Tinnitus at work.
That thought is that throughout history, ancient cultures have long thought that people hearing things or noises etc, were possessed by spirits, daemons or even the devil!
The noises that these unfortunate souls were hearing, may have been this very issue.
In fact, some of the more crazy “cures” for Tinnitus, was imbibing the foaming spit from a horse’s mouth! We do not recommend this, and more over we would even against doing this!!!
However the point we are making is that it is snot a modern medical issue by any stretch of the imagination.
One of the more well-known sufferers of this ailment, Beethoven, was even said to comment on how ironic it was to be both deaf and also suffer from Tinnitus, (poor guy).
Historical “Cures” of Tinnitus
As you might already be aware, there has been some pretty horrific medical cures for all sorts of things throughout history, and Tinnitus certainly doesn’t get out easily.
As a result of thinking that a patent was possessed by spirits, exorcisms and religious ceremonies were the name of the game for these guys.
These guys took a slightly more “scientific” approach to Tinnitus, by firstly assuming it was an imbalance of the bodily elements, (four temperaments), and their cure was to apply specific oils to the ear lobe, (perhaps because the ear is where the sound originates from?).
The masters of herbal medicine!
The ancient Taoists decided that it was a toxin issue arising from the kidneys and endorsed a mixture of Wolfberry, dodder seed, mulberry and powdered deer horn.
The prevailing views about the act of hearing, was that a little being lived inside our ear.
Tinnitus was the side effect of this being fighting off an invader into the body. The course of action was to burn snakeskin and waft it over the head of the patient.
Is Tinnitus a Disease or a Mental Disorder?
It has long been debated about how to actually classify it, but the consensus nowadays, seems to be that it a symptomatic issue, caused by several different problems.
Whilst it is great news that a classification has been given, the bad news is that this particular classification makes it quite hard to find a 1 cure fits all.
With the advent of electricity, a current passing through a sufferers head was seen as a possible cure to disrupt the sound.
What Causes Tinnitus
Tinnitus can be broken down into 2 categories:
This category comes from a quantifiable noise within the ear, and a noise that even a doctor with specialist equipment can hear.
What causes Objective Tinnitus?
Mainly it involves a wearing down of your jaw and then a grinding sound.
This is because our jaw has a tremendous effect of our hearing and is incredibly closely related. In fact, there are even products nowadays that can sense the movement of the jaw alone and translate that into speech!
Objective Tinnitus Treatments
Treatment can be difficult because of the unique nature of the jaw.
However you can usually diagnose yourself in the interim, by understanding that sorts of noises you hear.
Noises Associated With Objective Tinnitus
Regular or irregular:
- Deep grinding sound
- Or a blood related rhythmic:
- Swishing / throbbing
However there are other sounds related to this type, but this is just to help you to indicate yourself before you go to your Ear, Nose & throat doctor for a proper check-up.
Basically, this is when there is no real sound emanating from the ear, but rather from the brain getting signals that it thinks is noise, but in reality is nothing. Only the person suffering subjective Tinnitus can hear this sound.
Subjective Tinnitus is much more common than objective and this is what can really drive people into depression because it not observable and therefore less likely to be taken seriously, (even though we know it is a real thing).
What Causes Subjective Tinnitus?
Unfortunately, the causes are still unknown for this type of Tinnitus, however modern research has found a possible relation to a failure of the cochlea, specifically damage to the small hairs both inside and outside of the Corti, (an organ inside the ear used to send sound signals to the brain).
Noises Associated With Subjective Tinnitus
Because this type is associated with a malfunctioning of the delicate ear structures rather than purely mechanical issues to do with bone, the sounds that a subjective sufferer might hear could involve numerous different tones, pitches, rhythms etc.
What’s more is that sometime suffers are exposed to multiple different sounds throughout the day and sudden changes of sound. This can cause significant stress as a result of sudden and unexpected noise change…something very difficult to get used to.
Some of the most noted sounds include:
- Crashing waves
- Swarming insects
- Musical notes
- Bouncing balls
However there are many, many more and this resource may help you.
Possible Outside Causes of Tinnitus
Although there has not been enough research to fully understand it, as a result of it being a fairly common problem patterns have arisen that has lead us to presume some conceivable origins.
This cause has been known for some time, but this actual disease has 3 symptoms; one of which being Tinnitus.
One of the other symptoms seems to also be directly related and is hearing loss over time.
Although there are other symptoms associated with this disease, we will just focus on tinnitus for now because that is the prime subject of this article.
The actual tinnitus that is connected with Meniere’s disease, is most often a low pitched, buzzing kind of sound that has sometimes been referred to as sounding like a strong wind.
The treatment of Meniere’s, has ranged over time from invasive surgery to sedatives used to calm a patient to the point of them not having an issue with the symptoms, i.e. painting over the cracks without really fixing the underlying causes.
However the most reliable option has proved to be a medication called Serc, (Betahistine Hydrochloride), which has been shown in some clinical trials to lessen and sometimes even completely get rid of most of the symptoms…including the tinnitus.
Somewhat similar to the more widely known “phantom limb” issue, whereby a sufferer can still feel pain in an amputated limb.
However in the case of Tinnitus, it is most likely connected to people who are functionally deaf, but can still hear a noise.
The cause of this type of Tinnitus is often related to the damage of the vestibulocochlear nerves and therefore unfortunately no known treatment exists.
Essentially because the brain has stopped receiving all the signals it used to get from the damaged nerves, it starts to overcompensate and create its own noises.
Drug Use & Tinnitus
Aspirin is one of the world’s most popular drugs and used for a variety of reasons ranging from blood thinning to pain killing.
However as is the case with many drugs, it does has its side effects…one of which being temporary Tinnitus.
What’s worse for those already suffering from it; is that it actually makes the noise even worse for an existing sufferer even up to several hours afterwards.
An injury to the head can cause all kinds of issues as a result of it being the location of our brain. Tinnitus is also one such symptom that can arise from head injury, both serious and mild.
We know with some certainty that head injury results in Tinnitus, because the sound that accompanies it, is usually described as a high pitch whine. For anyone who has Tinnitus as a result of a head injury, there are certain methods that can be used to help reduce the effects.
All ways to alleviate Tinnitus are discussed later on in this article.
This is one of the causes that has created some mild forms of Tinnitus that most people will have experienced in their lives.
Luckily when many of us hear that loud, ringing noise after a concert or something similar; it is only acute and subsides after a few hours or days.
However repeated exposure to loud, piercing noises can actually result in a more permanent, chronic Tinnitus that has to be treated medically.
Soldiers, emergency service personnel and night club employees are particularly susceptible to permanent Tinnitus, which is why ear protection is highly recommended when working in places of repeated loud noises.
Simple Precautions to Reduce Permanent Tinnitus (& Hearing Loss)
- Try to stay clear of loud noises wherever possible, especially high pitched or sudden noises. However if unavoidable make sure to use ear protection
- Stay away from anything that may cause head trauma
- Keep headphone volume to the quietest that you can still enjoy your music
- If possible, try to stay away from Aspirin & Quinine, (ask doctor before doing anything)
- Don’t have your ears syringed unless necessary, (ask doctor before doing anything)
- Try to avoid sudden pressure changes which can be highly damaging to your inner ear health, (both for Tinnitus and general health)
Medical Treatments for Tinnitus
As we have already written, the medical world has not really been able to figure out exactly the reasons behind Tinnitus, and therefore have not found any real cures.
Whilst there have been certain clinical trials that have resulted in some successes, nothing has really caught on.
This is partly due to the different reasons behind the different forms of Tinnitus.
However there have been advances in keyhole surgery, particularly of the ear, and in fact operations on the cochlea itself, is even possible today with a high degree of sophistication.
I will go through several current methods that doctors advise.
This is only an option if there are observable causes of Tinnitus that can be corrected physically. For example one such issue that can develop and that is a cause of Tinnitus; is Otosclerosis.
Essentially when a part of one of the bones of your inner ear, starts to grow into the middle section thereby locking up the extremely delicate hammer bones.
Surgery is a better option than others in this case, because it can fix a physical symptom and bring relief to the sufferer where methods such as a hearing aid, cannot.
Other, specific reasons where surgery can be beneficial include:
- Ossicular chain knocked out of position due to extremely loud noises or head injuries etc
- Oval window membrane preformation
- Blockage of the Eustachain tubes
- Inner ear blood vessel issues
- Perforated ear drum, (if it doesn’t row back itself)
- Vestibulocochlear nerve tumour
Most of the available drugs right now require very high does to have any discernible effect at reducing Tinnitus, and a high dose of any drug usually results in side effects…sometimes pretty nasty.
Some drugs such as Serc mentioned earlier, can reduce the symptoms of Tinnitus by fixing the underlying issue, but this is only prevalent when Tinnitus is caused by other issues.
So basically if your Tinnitus is unrelated to another disease, then these kinds of drugs likely will not help you.
However, there are other drugs that are currently used to help relieve nonspecific types of Tinnitus, (where the cause is unknown).
These have the effect of reducing your body’s nervous system and calming it down. Therefore your brain starts to ignore lower grade sounds.
The most promising drug being Lidocaine which has shown to reduce indications in nearly 70% of sufferers. The main drawback being that it is only temporary and does not do anything to fix the root of the issue.
What about longer term relief?
Well there is another less commonly supplied drug for Tinnitus called Carbamazepine in its medical identity, or Tegretol in its marketing, sales guise!
Tegretol seems to have stronger effects on those that already react positively to Lidocaine, but with the bonus of having a much longer reduction of symptoms.
It does however, come with a kind of worrying side effect whereby it can interfere with blood cell production, (fatal in some cases), so is NOT recommended for mild cases of Tinnitus…but also speak with your primary doctor and make sure to get other opinions.
Here we move on to a more physical method of Tinnitus help, and one that is certainly more desirable to some people than drugs considering some of the downsides.
Hearing aids for Tinnitus are generally offered as a first option, with a move onto drugs if they prove ineffective to some sufferers.
Essentially, this is what we might know as a noise cancelling device, but for tinnitus.
However traditional noise cancelling devices will create a sort of “anti-sound” which cancels out an external din, whereas a masker will actually create more noise.
This may sound counter intuitive, but it is actually part of a clever neurological feature.
Some Tinnitus is characterised by having a constant sound and pitch, generally at a fairly quiet sound.
If other irregular sounds drown out the original, a sufferer’s brain will tend to ignore the original sound thus causing a decrease in discomfort.
Or to put it in a simpler way; a masker will overload the brain with sound to activate an interesting feature that lets the brain ignore too much stimuli, (you would be surprised at just how much information the human brain filters out).
There are different types of maskers that create different sounds, with the most common including:
- Pure tone
- White noise
- Fixed band generators
Maskers are not suitable for everyone, and not everyone will find their use of benefit, however the vast majority of low level sufferers will find some degree of satisfaction when using these devices.