You don’t have to go far in Alaska to find a little slice of serenity. The tranquillity of the lakes, glaciers, wide-open plains is one of the reasons why many of us love it so much here.

However, for some people, this peace is often broken – not by the sounds coming from their surroundings, but by a consistent ringing sensation in their ear.

Audiologists call this “tinnitus,” and it affects as many as 15 percent of all US citizens (roughly 50 million people), according to the American Tinnitus Association.

And while you may have heard the name, not many people know the exact reasons why it emerges or how it can be treated.

So I decided to take the opportunity to provide insights about it and explain what excellent solutions we can offer you at Alaska Hearing & Tinnitus Center.

So what exactly is tinnitus?

To begin, it’s worth saying that audiologists don’t class tinnitus as an isolated condition. Instead, we know it as a symptom that arises in response to another underlying issue.

Classically, someone with tinnitus will hear a high-pitched ringing sound in their ears.

But actually, this sensation is unique to each individual – and can include a humming, hissing, or clicking sound, among others.

Researchers believe that this sound is created by our brains when it tries to offset damage to our auditory system – with it mimicking the high-frequency part of our hearing that is deficient.

People can experience a mild form of tinnitus, which doesn’t significantly affect their quality of life. However, others find the symptoms grow worse and never dissipate.

Over time, this can lead to social and emotional issues, as the sensation affects their personal goals and relationships with others.

The two types of tinnitus

Audiologists distinguish between two types of tinnitus: subjective and objective.

Subjective tinnitus, which most people experience, comes from a problem in your outer, middle, or inner ear – such as nerve damage in your auditory system.

No one else but you will witness the ringing sound you hear, and it won’t be audible to me during your ear examination at the clinic.

On the contrary, there are a small number of people – roughly five percent – who will hear a sound that I also witness during an assessment.

In these cases, the issue usually results from increase blood flow, vibrations in the ear, or overuse of auditory muscles.

What causes tinnitus?

The reasons why someone acquires tinnitus can be extremely wide-ranging. But to give you an idea, I’ve provided some examples below:

#1 – Problems arising from aging: as we get older, nerve fibers located in our inner ears can slowly degrade, leading to hearing loss and tinnitus.

#2 – Nerve damage due to noise exposure: some people can witness a very loud sound, leading to tinnitus, but it’s also possible to get the issue if you hear regular sounds above a safe level.

#3 – Head trauma: if you receive a bang on the head, particularly if it’s close to your ear, you can sometimes find you gain tinnitus symptoms later.

#4 – An obstruction in your ear canal: a range of issues like earwax build-up, inflammation, or growths in your ear can also lead to tinnitus.

#5 – Certain medicines cause issues: ototoxic drugs can additionally lead to someone getting tinnitus, with the symptoms often reducing once you stop taking them.

How can you treat tinnitus?

People often believe tinnitus is untreatable, and so they don’t seek help when they begin to notice their symptoms.

Indeed, tinnitus can’t often be cured completely.

But actually, there are several ways that I can help you reduce your symptoms – using technological solutions, counseling techniques, and medical referrals.

Also, lifestyle changes can make a huge difference.

I often advise my patients to consider altering their sleeping patterns, use protection against potentially dangerous sounds, and to see if they can reduce their daily stress burden.

If you are concerned about tinnitus or know a loved one struggling with it, my door is always open, so call me at (907) 522-4357, and we can find a great solution!

Do you know somebody that needs to see this? Why not share it?

Dr. Emily McMahan

Dr. Emily McMahan

Dr. McMahan attended the University of Cincinnati where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders in 2009. She furthered her professional education by obtaining her Doctorate of Audiology from Salus University in Philadelphia in 2013. She completed her residency in Anchorage and has been applying her expertise to her patients in the Pacific Northwest for several years. Whether you need hearing testing, hearing aids, or assistance with managing tinnitus in your daily lives, Dr. McMahan is qualified to assist you!