What You Should Know About Tinnitus

Photo of hanging brass bellsIf you have ever experienced a ringing or other sound in your ears, even in a perfectly quiet setting, you are one of the 50 million Americans dealing with tinnitus.

It usually fades after a few hours or within a couple of days, but for many people in Los Angeles, tinnitus is a chronic occurrence that can interfere with many aspects of their daily lives.

Recognizing the signs and taking steps to minimize its impact will lead to a better quality of life.

Tinnitus: Causes and Symptoms

Tinnitus isn’t a disease, but rather the symptom of another underlying condition.

It occurs when the hair cells of your cochlea are damaged, preventing the normal transmission of signals to the brain; instead, they short-circuit or “misfire,” leading to a ringing noise in your ears.

Sometimes people report other sounds such as buzzing, roaring, whooshing, clicking, whistling or humming.

For some individuals, tinnitus is intermittent and doesn’t bother them too much.

About 20 percent of people with tinnitus in Los Angeles experience symptoms so severe they interfere with sleep, cause hearing and concentration difficulties, impact social activities and lead to stress, anxiety, isolation and depression.

Possible Causes of Tinnitus

The list of possible causes is pretty extensive, but much like hearing loss, the top contributors are natural aging and noise exposure.

Damage to the hair cells of your inner ear occurs naturally, the result of a lifetime of noise exposure. At age 65 one-third of people are affected; by 75, about half of all individuals are dealing with age-related hearing loss.

While this usually occurs gradually, exposure to loud nose can cause sudden, permanent tinnitus. This can impact people of all ages and is becoming increasingly common in children and young adults, often as a consequence of listening to music through personal audio devices at high volume levels.

A 2016 study published in Scientific Reports in 2016 found that almost 30 percent of adolescents were experiencing chronic tinnitus – a troubling trend that does not bode well for their long-term hearing health.

Other causes include inner ear disorders, high blood pressure, circulatory problems, benign tumors and medications that can harm the ears – particularly certain antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs.

Prevention & Treatment

The best way to prevent tinnitus is to protect your hearing.

Wear earplugs any time you are exposed to noisy activities (concerts, sporting events, using power tools, riding a motorcycle, mowing the lawn, etc.).

When listening to music through personal audio devices, consider investing in noise-canceling headphones, which block external sounds so you can keep the volume turned down without disruptions.

If you already have tinnitus, there is no cure – but you can manage your symptoms in order to reduce their severity.

Schedule an appointment with an audiologist, who will check your hearing and recommend strategies to cope with the ringing in your ears.

Masking techniques such as white noise therapy and tinnitus retraining therapy help your brain shift its focus away from the tinnitus; other solutions might include relaxation exercises, lifestyle modifications, counseling, antidepressants and switching to different medications.


This information is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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