Different Types of Tinnitus Explained
Varieties of Tinnitus
Tinnitus is a widely encountered condition, yet it manifests differently in each individual. There are several varieties of tinnitus, and it’s probable that your experience of tinnitus falls into one of these classifications.
This is the prevalent form of tinnitus, typically resulting from exposure to loud noises. The sounds associated with subjective tinnitus are only perceptible to you. It might appear intermittently, with variations in duration and intensity. The omnipresent noise of subjective tinnitus often drowns out other environmental sounds, making it challenging to focus on important tasks. Treatment for this form usually involves hearing aids that produce soothing sounds, diverting your attention from the intrusive tinnitus noises.
A substantial number of tinnitus sufferers experience sensory tinnitus, generally arising as a consequence of a malfunctioning auditory system. No cure has been identified yet for sensory tinnitus, but well-structured tinnitus management programs can help control and mitigate its disruptive effects. Sensory tinnitus is a subset of subjective tinnitus, commonly induced by conditions that interfere with the brain’s processing of sounds. If you have sensory tinnitus, you may sometimes feel unsteady.
Somatic tinnitus, linked to physical movement and touch, can be triggered by muscle spasms in the ear or neck or other mechanical sources. Sound therapy may be used for this type, but other approaches like massage therapy can also be beneficial. Actions causing the neck to twist or dental issues like impacted wisdom teeth can lead to somatic tinnitus. It is also known as conductive tinnitus as it stems from more exterior functions rather than sensory or neurological origins. Occasionally, the mechanical causes of this tinnitus can be audible to others.
This is one of the least common forms of tinnitus. Objective tinnitus can be heard by someone other than the sufferer, typically using a stethoscope. The sounds produced often align with the heartbeat.
Tinnitus is unique to every individual, but remember, you are not alone. An estimated 15% of the global population experiences tinnitus. There are management strategies available that can alleviate the stress and anxiety associated with tinnitus.
Treatment options depend on whether an underlying health issue causes your tinnitus. If this is the case, addressing the health condition may reduce your symptoms. The examples include:
- Earwax removal: Clearing an earwax blockage can alleviate tinnitus symptoms.
- Addressing blood vessel conditions: Such conditions may necessitate medication, surgery, or other treatments.
- Hearing aids: If noise-induced or age-related hearing loss causes your tinnitus, hearing aids may enhance your symptoms.
- Medication adjustment: If a drug you’re taking triggers tinnitus, your doctor may advise discontinuing or decreasing the dosage, or shifting to a different medication.
Although curing tinnitus may not always be possible, treatments are available that can render the symptoms less noticeable. These may include using an electronic device to suppress the noise. Such devices can be:
- White noise machines: Devices producing sound similar to static or environmental sounds can effectively treat tinnitus. White noise machines with pillow speakers can be helpful for sleep.
- Masking devices: Similar to hearing aids, these devices produce continuous, low-level white noise to suppress tinnitus symptoms.
Behavioral treatment aims to change your perspective about your symptoms, thereby reducing their impact. Over time, this could lead to tinnitus bothering you less. Options include:
- Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT): This personalized program, usually administered by an audiologist or a tinnitus treatment center, combines sound masking and professional counseling. Over time, TRT may help you become less aware and distressed by your symptoms.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or other forms of counseling: A licensed mental health professional can teach you coping strategies to make your symptoms less intrusive. Counseling can also address other issues related to tinnitus, such as anxiety and depression.
While drugs can’t cure tinnitus, they may sometimes alleviate the severity of symptoms or related issues. Your doctor may prescribe medication to treat an underlying condition or to help manage the anxiety and depression that often accompany tinnitus.
Potential Future Treatments
Research is ongoing into the potential for magnetic or electrical brain stimulation to relieve tinnitus symptoms. This includes investigations into methods like transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and deep brain stimulation.