What Causes Ringing in Your Ears as You Age?
Our hearing can change a lot over the years and, occasionally, you may experience a ringing in your ears. In most cases, this is caused by a loud noise or a change in air pressure, and the problem will quickly subside. However, as we get older, we are more prone to what is called tinnitus. Rather than being a condition in and of itself, tinnitus is a symptom, most commonly described as hearing noises that aren’t audible to anyone else. In most cases, but not all, this can sound like a ringing in your ears.
About tinnitus and age
As mentioned, tinnitus is not considered a condition in and of itself. It’s a symptom and one that can be different from person to person. You might experience it as a ringing in your ears, while someone else might hear it as a musical tune or it might mimic the sound of their heartbeats. Around 10% of the adult population lives with tinnitus, and it’s more commonly found in older adults since many of the potential causes of the symptoms can come more commonly with age.
For some people, tinnitus can be a minor annoyance, while others can find it debilitating. It’s often associated with a lack of sleep, greater risk of stress and anxiety and impaired abilities to concentrate and to communicate. Though there is no cure that will treat all kinds of tinnitus, treating the underlying causes can make it go away, and there are also tools and therapies that can be used to make it easier to get used to or to ignore.
So, what causes tinnitus as we age?
As varied as tinnitus is, it can also be caused by a wide variety of conditions and issues. Sometimes, you may not be able to find the specific cause of tinnitus, so your hearing instrument specialist will focus on treating the symptoms rather than what might be causing it. Some of the health conditions that can cause tinnitus include hearing loss, ear infections, hypertension, exposure to loud noise, thyroid problems and reactions to some medications.
The reason that tinnitus is more likely to affect older people, is that we are more likely to experience both hearing loss and hypertension as we age. Our hearing naturally starts to degrade as we get older, but it’s also when we are most likely to feel the lasting effects of exposure to loud noise.
Tinnitus and your exposure to loud noise
All sounds that are louder than 85 decibels put us at risk of permanent hearing loss. The louder the noise or the more sustained it is, the greater that risk is. For most people, the greatest risk of these loud noises comes from the workplace. Factories, road constructions, working in airports and even mowing the lawn as a landscaper can all contribute to or directly cause tinnitus. Although hearing protection has become mandatory in all environments that demand it, by law, many of us may have worked in loud environments without this necessary protection.
The damage caused by loud noise exposure, as well as the hearing loss that can come with it, are both causes of tinnitus. As such, it’s important to have your hearing checked if you have any ringing in your ears, as the problem may go a little deeper.
Treating the underlying conditions, such as hypertension and earwax build-ups can help get rid of the problem of tinnitus. However, sometimes it can stay with you for a long time and, it’s worth looking into methods of managing the symptoms. Besides the ways that a hearing instrument specialist can help, which we will look into shortly, you should also consider treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy which can treat the mental impacts often caused by tinnitus and improve sleep quality, too.
What can your hearing instrument specialist do to help?
Modern hearing instruments, such as advanced hearing aids, can come with sound-masking features that can match the pitch and tone of the ringing in your ears, helping to balance it out. They can also amplify external noise, so it’s much easier to ignore. Most importantly, a hearing instrument specialist can help you understand and treat the underlying hearing loss that may be causing that ringing in your ears as you age.
The best way to start treating tinnitus is to seek help with it as soon as you can, so don’t hesitate to learn more from Affordable Hearing by calling us at 803-748-6017 to reach our Irmo office or at 803-531-6403 to reach our Orangeburg and Santree offices.