Tinnitus is often called 'ringing in the ears' and is rather common when you consider it affects about 15-20% of people in the world. It isn't labelled as a condition in itself - it's regarded as a symptom of an underlying condition, similar to age-related hearing loss.
Although it can be quite distressing for the sufferer, it can be improved and managed with treatment and lifestyle change. Methods used assist in subduing the noises you hear, so they are less noticeable. Managing tinnitus is key to living a good quality of life, as it can worsen with age and without treatment can cause isolation and debilitate you both mentally and physically.
Tinnitus is when you hear sounds within your head that are not externally present. These can be called 'phantom noises' and such sounds include:
These noises may vary in pitch and in one ear or both. You can also experience waves of extreme symptoms called a 'spike' or they can sound fairly mild. Stress or anxiety often dictates the level and severity of tinnitus. No matter the level of noise, it can reduce your ability to concentrate on your daily life, especially in the workplace, if you don't have consistent management methods in place.
In most cases tinnitus occurs when the inner ear is damaged, but here are some other causes:
Over the past few years research has been undertaken to see how hearing loss can influence cognitive decline - like dementia and Alzheimers. Studies, so far, don’t highlight that hearing loss triggers dementia. What it does show is that the two are linked.
The section of your brain that manages hearing and auditory processing can start to work in a different way – if the ability to hear decreases. This results in various changes in how the brain is constructed and works.
When hearing declines, you have to concentrate more in order to make sense of conversations and your surroundings. This added pressure increases your levels of mental energy. This means you have less energy to cope with storing memory and other forms of cognitive functions.
It is already common knowledge that social isolation can have a huge impact on mental and physical health. When you can’t hear properly it makes interaction with others challenging, which in turn alienates you socially. Your wellbeing alters and depression and loneliness can follow. All these negative changes are harmful to your mental wellbeing and quality of life.
Although we are not completely confident that the link between Alzheimer’s and hearing loss is in the result of one or all these points – knowing that there is a connection is a positive step into early prevention or assistance.
This doesn’t mean that the older generation with hearing loss will get Alzheimer’s. However, it is still vital to reduce the risk or level of hearing loss – decreasing the chances of developing Alzheimer’s altogether or lessen its ferocity. In order to stay vital, connected and to continue having a good quality of life – it is important to get your hearing checked professionally by an audiologist.
Meniere’s is a disorder that affects the inner ear, leading to vertigo and hearing loss. It is more common in both ears but can affect just one in some cases. It can develop at any point in your life but ordinarily occurs between young and middle-aged adults. Meniere’s is considered a long-term condition with options of treatment to reduce the symptoms and the overall impact it has on your life.
There are a number of symptoms that come with this disease, the main one being persistent spells of vertigo. A feeling similar to a spinning sensation that disrupts balance, coordination and has the ability to stop and start at different levels. Therefore, the risk of suffering from dangerous falls and accidents is increased. Most episodes can last anywhere between fifteen minutes and several hours.
It usually starts with some level of hearing loss that normally appears in waves and in most cases becomes permanent. Other traits are tinnitus, a ringing, buzzing and whistling of the ear and aural fullness in the ear – pressure within the affected ear.
These symptoms may sometimes lessen over time – maybe even disappear for a duration. If you are experiencing any of these signs, seek professional help, as other complications such as fatigue and stress can interrupt your value of life. As with all medical conditions, an early diagnosis will be the beneficial start to treating this disease and helping you regain control.
There are no known causes of Meniere's disease currently, other than excessive amounts of endolymph fluid in the inner ear – but even the reasons behind this are unclear. What we do know is that this fluid is a result of either bad drainage, blockage or anatomic abnormality. Other reasons could be an abnormal immune response, genetic implications or viral infection. Due to the lack of identification – a combination of some or all of these factors is a realistic assumption.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease at the moment – however, there are a number of ways in which the symptoms can be reduced using non-evasive methods. On the other hand, there are also aggressive treatments like surgery and injections, which your doctor can explain at your appointment. Along with hearing aids, which cater for your own unique hearing loss and a successful hearing solution, there are other methods.
There are various types of medication that can be prescribed by your doctor to help with your vertigo and reduce the impact of your episodes. As well as tackling nausea when you are experiencing feelings of spinning and imbalance. Your doctor may also advise you to take fluid retention medication and to reduce your salt consumption, as this can aid in controlling the frequency of this disease.
Vestibular rehabilitation is often a popular type of therapy for those who have Meniere's. It involves putting pressure on the middle ear to decrease fluid build-up. This is a treatment that you can do daily at home. Such devices are known as a Meniett, which applies said pressure via the tympanostomy tube.
While studies show that hearing loss is twice as likely in those who have diabetes than those who don’t – the causes are a bit cloudy. Those with diabetes know that managing the disease is vital and when blood sugar levels are not controlled, the risk of developing hearing loss is increased. It could be down to the fact that high blood pressure can damage and weaken blood vessels around the body, including your ears.
If diabetes has been mismanaged for a long period of time then there could be a high amount of damage to your ear network, which is full of small blood vessels. You can also be exposed to nerve damage when you have this disease. Therefore, your auditory nerves could suffer and result in hearing loss.
Maintaining a good standard of diabetic care is important. Be consistent with your treatment plan, monitor your symptoms and regularly visit your GP. If you have hearing loss and diabetes it doesn’t necessarily mean that the two are linked. It may be due to a long duration of loud noise exposure, ageing, genetics, a virus or structural problems to your ears.
In some cases, a few forms of hearing loss in those who have diabetes is short term. Seeking early treatment increases the chances of recovery. However, your hearing future all depends on the level of hearing loss and the success of treatment available.
If you have diabetes you should get your hearing health checked every year. Other things you can do are:
As someone’s hearing weakens, the chances of social anxiety and depression are more likely. Those with any form of hearing loss, who are isolated socially and have become depressed may find managing their treatment much harder. These are some of the variables that have the ability to spiral out of control – keeping a close eye on your hearing is key to your future hearing healthcare and mental health.
On another note, if you know someone who is showing signs of hearing loss or social and mental behaviour changes – then advise them to seek medical help. It might not be immediately apparent to them, and sometimes an outsider’s perspective can really help early treatment and diagnosis, which results in a better outcome and recovery.
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