Tinnitus: What it is and How to Prevent It

Tinnitus presents symptoms that irritate the ears. For those that suffer, hearing the humming that doesn't come from the outside world can result in daily torture. In this article, we'll tell you all about tinnitus, how you can explain its appearance, and how to prevent it.
Tinnitus: What it is and How to Prevent It

Last update: 15 May, 2021

We can define tinnitus as a humming sound. This humming doesn’t come from an external source, but rather from an echoing from inside the body. Those affected are unable to put a finger on the cause. Keep reading for tips on how to prevent tinnitus!

Although people often describe it as a hum, some people talk about a whistle or clicking sound within the ear. The sound and tone can also vary; for some, it’s serious, for others acute. Almost 10% of the population experience tinnitus or have experienced it at least once.

Bilateral tinnitus is a much more common form of tinnitus than the unilateral kind. The latter is where the individual hears the noise in only one side of their head, not both. Regardless, the causes are shared for both types.

Medically speaking, there are two general variants of tinnitus:

  • Objective: This isn’t very common. The patient isn’t the only one who can hear the noise – when the doctor does a clinical exam, they’re able to hear it too.
  • Subjective: In this kind, only the patient is able to hear the humming. Most cases are like this, which is why it’s difficult for specialists to cure it. Only those that suffer can describe it and say when they can hear it and when they can’t.

Causes of tinnitus

We have to understand that tinnitus is a manifestation of something else. By that, we mean that tinnitus isn’t an illness in itself; it’s a symptom. Among the most frequent causes we can find the following:

  • Age: A loss of auditory abilities can sometimes come with old age, which is especially evident in those over seventy. This loss of hearing is associated with tinnitus.
  • Exposure to noise: People that work with noisy machinery or that listen to music on portable devices too much may suffer from auditory damage. Overstimulating the eardrum and auditory system can cause tinnitus. Sometimes, this is temporary and will stop when they stop using the noise source, however, other times it persists chronically.
  • Ear wax: Waxy plugs in the ear canal can generate poor sound interpretation that can develop into a humming.
  • Small bones in the ear: In the auditory system there’s a fundamental link that takes the form of three small bones called hammer, anvil, and stirrup. These small bones can harden due to a condition we know as otosclerosis. In fact, one of the symptoms of this is tinnitus.
woman with tinnitus; what it is and what causes it
The accumulation of wax and frequent exposure to loud noises can cause tinnitus. However, it can also be a sign of certain illnesses.

Types of tinnitus

Although there’s subjective logic when it comes to describing tinnitus, the tone and volume can help with diagnosis. It’s not definitive, but it helps the doctor to identify an underlying cause to subsequently treat it.

  • Popping noises, for example, tend to refer to muscular problems. They can originate from harsh contractions in the muscles that surround the ear and movements in the chin, which are quite close.
  • The cardiovascular system can generate humming in the ears. Blood flow, which increases with arterial hypertension or with changes in position may be perceived as tinnitus. More seriously still, it could be indicating the existence of an aneurysm close to the ear, or rather, a dilation of arteries that could rupture.
  •  With serious tinnitus, you have to first consider otosclerosis or the presence of excessive wax. Alternatively, acute tinnitus is usually caused by the loss of hearing due to old age or exposure to loud noises.
  • A worrying cause is tumors in the ears or the region of the brain near the ear. This cause doesn’t produce a sound of any particular kind and can be both serious and acute.
Examining an ear.
The tone and volume of the humming those affected hear can be useful when it comes to diagnosis. However, sometimes it’s necessary to examine the issue in greater depth.

Risk factors and how to prevent tinnitus

As we’ve mentioned in this article, there are many causes of tinnitus and they have an impact on the diagnosis. From the specific cause, we can decipher which prevention measures are the most suitable. Basically, to prevent tinnitus, you should do the following:

  • Reduce your exposure to loud noises: Scientific evidence shows that loud noises are capable of damaging our auditory cells. There is legislation in almost every country that obliges people to use ear protection in work that may be dangerous. Factory workers, construction workers, and musicians are the most exposed.
  • Control your auditory capability according to age: As we grow old, we should increase our awareness of our ears and their function, getting regular checks.
  • Avoid tobacco: Just like other risk factors, tobacco is capable of causing many health issues, including tinnitus.
  • Reduce cardiovascular problems: Hypertension, heart failure, atherosclerosis are illnesses that can develop tinnitus. By controlling their cardiac illnesses properly, the less likely they are to develop tinnitus.

Clearly, there’s not one specific situation or symptom that warrants extreme alarm, but you should be concerned. By taking appropriate measures with time, you can prevent tinnitus from developing and the discomfort it brings. Of course, upon its first appearance, it’s a good idea to consult a professional rather than allowing it to worsen.

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