Heavy machinery and loud concerts have been the cause of most of us experiencing short term ringing or high-pitched buzzing in our ears at some point in our lives.
As the years progress, our aging parents and others may experience tinnitus more frequently, sometimes the ringing may become chronic.
What causes tinnitus?
There are many causes of tinnitus. Sometimes it comes from prolonged exposure to loud noises or from an oversupply of wax in the ears. Some illnesses, such as Lyme disease or fibromyalgia, are often accompanied by a ringing in the ears. Neck and head injuries, heart disease, tumors, and jaw misalignment can also bring it about. The body may also react to certain drugs in ways that cause the disorder.
What can be done about it?
If you, your aging parents, or your loved ones experience tinnitus, bring it to the attention of your doctor. He or she may recommend that you see an audiologist or an ear, nose, and throat specialist. The doctor will try to determine what might be causing the tinnitus; if medication might be a factor, he or she might suggest switching to a different form of the medicine.
- Aids and medications
There are a number of treatment devices, such as hearing aids and cochlear implants, that are can help mask tinnitus; no drugs have yet been proven clinically effective, but some doctors may recommend an off label use of a drug to treat the ringing. (In this case, “off label” means that the drug is approved by the FDA for use in treating a condition other than tinnitus, but the doctor believes that it may be of benefit for tinnitus sufferers as well.) If your doctor recommends this type of treatment, be sure to determine why he recommends it and what the risks might be.
- White noise
For many, especially those with milder cases of ringing or buzzing, a bit of white noise can be very helpful. You can purchase a small machine that creates a gentle whirring sound that helps to block out the tinnitus. In some cases, a simple tabletop fan can even do the trick. Other people may prefer to listen to recorded sounds of gentle rainfall or crickets chirping.
- Alternative medicine
Some people find that acupuncture, hypnosis, relaxation therapy, and other forms of alternative medicine help with their ear issues. There also are various mixtures of vitamins and herbs that seem to provide relief for some; however, make sure you check with a doctor before experimenting with any such options, just to be safe.
- Jaw alignment
Sometimes a misaligned jaw brings about the hearing problem. Consult with your dentist to see if your loved one might have temporomandibular joint (TMJ).
For most people, tinnitus is an annoyance but not much more than that; however, for others the ringing can be intense and in some cases debilitating, impacting both physical and mental health. If you suspect that your aging parent may have tinnitus, make a point of discussing this with his or her doctor. Ultimately, your loved ones’ relief will be your relief.