Are you experiencing ringing in your ears that just won’t stop? If you’re unable to attribute your ringing to an external source, you may be experiencing tinnitus. Tinnitus is a common hearing condition that is especially prevalent in older adults.
For many, the constant sound far exceeds annoyance and becomes completely debilitating, making it difficult to carry out simple day-to-day activities. If you’re suffering, you may wonder if you’ll ever find relief. However, before you can treat tinnitus in older adults, you have to first determine its cause. So let’s discuss what exactly tinnitus is, its symptoms, causes, and possible treatments.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is a phantom ringing or buzzing that you hear even in the absence of other noise. It’s a sound only you hear and can occur in one or both ears. The frequency of its presence can also fluctuate, where it can come and go or be near constant.
Over 15 percent of the world’s population suffers from tinnitus, with most being between the ages of 40 and 80. The prevalence of chronic tinnitus increases with age, with 14.3 percent afflicted being between 60 and 69 years old.
The noise associated with tinnitus is usually described as a ringing sound; however, the noise heard can include:
Tinnitus itself isn’t harmful, but it can be part of an underlying health problem that needs to be addressed.
What Causes Tinnitus in Older Adults?
Unfortunately, sometimes there is no verifiable cause for tinnitus. This can make it extremely hard not only to treat but also to cope with. However, tinnitus is usually caused by an underlying condition that can be addressed.
Prolonged exposure to loud noises is one of the most common causes of ringing in the ears. Up to 90 percent of people with tinnitus have some degree of noise-induced hearing loss.
And although we often associtate tinnitus with hearing loss, it doesn’t actually cause the loss of hearing. In addition to noise-induced hearing loss, tinnitus is usually a side effect of age-related hearing loss.
Other causes include medication interaction, significant earwax buildup, ear or sinus infection, hormonal changes, and injury to the ear. High cholesterol and high blood pressure have also been linked to tinnitus as they decrease blood flow in the inner ear affecting circulation. Tinnitus can be the first symptom of atherosclerosis.
Treatment for Tinnitus
Treatment for tinnitus begins with determining the underlying health condition contributing to the ringing in your ears. When you visit your doctor, be sure to describe as accurately as possible the tinnitus noises you’re hearing. This can help your provider identify possible causes.
- Clicking sounds may suggest you’re experiencing muscle contractions in and around your ear.
- Pulsing, rushing, or humming sounds usually stem from vascular causes, such as high blood pressure.
- Low-pitched ringing may signal that your ear canal has a blockage.
- High-pitched ringing is the most commonly heard tinnitus sound and is usually a result of loud noise exposure, hearing loss, or medications.
So, depending on the sound and determined causes, your doctor will address the underlying condition, which may include removing earwax blockages, treating high blood pressure, or changing your medication.
Unfortunately, sometimes there is no cure for eliminating tinnitus altogether. Sometimes treatment includes management techniques and ways to drown out the ringing in your ears.
Other treatment options may include:
- Hearing aids: These can help with age-related hearing loss and tinnitus side effects. They can help to drain out the ringing by amplifying other sounds.
- Masking devices: Similar to hearing aids, masking devices are worn in or around the ears and create a constant, low-level white noise that helps to suppress tinnitus symptoms.
- Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT): This is an individualized program that combines sound masking and therapy from an audiologist or trained professional.
- Relaxation techniques: Stress can make tinnitus worse, so finding ways to relax and alleviate stress can help to lessen the ringing in your ears.
- Limit alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine: These substances are affect blood flow and can contribute to tinnitus, especially when used in excess.
Stop the Ringing and Get Relief
It can be extremely difficult to cope if suffering from tinnitus. Many people find the condition to be debilitating, keeping them from enjoying life and activities they once enjoyed. If you’re experiencing ringing in your ears or other signs of tinnitus in older adults, schedule an appointment with your provider to discuss. Together, you can get to the root cause and begin working toward a treatment goal to help find you relief from tinnitus.