By: Carien de Jager
It is the season of Bee Gees songs playing in every shop and Christmas carols with the sound of bells all around us. Summer time with the cicadas zinging happily on a hot day for our summer holiday season, all creating a feeling that the holidays are near. To someone who loves the festive season it sounds like heaven to be surrounded by these sounds all year round.
Imagine having a zinging ringing sound in your head all year round. When you sit down to read a book on a rainy day, when you go to bed at night and all is quiet except for the ringing in your ears. This sounds more like a nightmare.
That is tinnitus. Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. A common problem, tinnitus affects about 15 to 20 percent of people. It is caused when cells in part of your inner ear are damaged, and they send signals to the brain making you think you are hearing things that are not there. This condition can occur in adults and in children. Tinnitus isn’t a condition itself — it’s a symptom of an underlying condition, such as age-related hearing loss, ear injury or a circulatory system disorder.
The causes of tinnitus can be diverse:
- normal aging,
- hearing loss,
- loud noise (for example, from construction work such as jackhammers, power tools, gunfire, loud music at concerts, etc.),
- medications (including some antibiotics, anti-seizure medicines, and painkillers),
- head or neck injuries, and
- certain diseases.
Other associated causes of tinnitus include:
- stiffening of the bones in the middle ear (otosclerosis),
- tumours within the auditory system,
- blood vessels or neurological disorders, and
- genetic or inherited inner ear disorders.
If you are experiencing tinnitus, contact your audiologist for a hearing evaluation to help identify the cause and treat possible hearing loss.