There are few things that are as irritating and nerve-racking as hearing a ringing sound in your ears. What makes it more alarming is that it can be a sign of hearing loss. There are some old wives’ tales and common misconceptions about what the ringing sound in your ear means.
A popular one is that if your ears are ringing, then that means someone is talking about you. Some who are interested in New Age medicine and spirituality believe that when your ears ring, you’re hearing your chakras turn. Some even believe it means you’re hearing a certain sound for the last time. None of those theories are correct, so continue reading to learn the real reasons your ears ring as you age.
What is the ringing sound in my ears?
Just like the introduction states, none of the common wives’ tales or superstitions regarding the ringing sound in your ears is true. There is a medical explanation for that nagging sound—it’s called tinnitus. Tinnitus isn’t actually a condition itself—it’s just the name given to the ringing sound. The ringing sound itself is a symptom of hearing loss due to old age, circulatory problems, or an ear injury.
There are different ways to treat tinnitus, but the method depends on the underlying cause of the ringing. Some treatments aim to mask or lessen the ringing, but the best treatment is one that attacks the problem at the root of the cause.
The good news is that usually, tinnitus isn’t serious or a sign of a serious condition—nor is it rare. Just about everyone has suffered from it if only for a few seconds after a loud bang or fireworks.
About 15% of America’s population suffers from chronic tinnitus—tinnitus that lasts longer than six months. There is no cure for it, and it can progress with age. Fortunately, for most people, it doesn’t greatly interfere with the quality of their life. For some though, the ringing in their ears can be so loud and constant that they can’t concentrate or even hear regularly.
Many people who have been to war suffer from tinnitus, and it can trigger PTSD-related anxiety attacks. The ringing in their ears can trigger a traumatic experience and cause them to harm themselves or others. If the ringing in your ears triggers traumatic injuries and panic attacks, there are psychiatrists specializing in PTSD who can help you to cope with your extreme stress.
Types of Tinnitus
There are a couple of different types of tinnitus—each with its own implications. They are subjective and objective tinnitus. Subjective tinnitus is tinnitus that can only be heard by the person who is suffering from it. Objective tinnitus is tinnitus that an audiologist can hear.
Subjective is by far the most common type of tinnitus. It’s usually nothing serious, and tinnitus treatments for it will aim to lessen the ringing sound itself. Objective tinnitus is scarier because if your audiologist can hear it, it’s a sign that something is off with your circulation.
Your family can determine whether your tinnitus is subjective or objective. If it’s subjective, then he will likely send you to an audiologist for tinnitus treatment. If it’s objective, he may run other tests to see what the underlying cause of it is because objective tinnitus is rarely a sign of a tumor or other obstruction of your blood vessels.
How can I prevent tinnitus?
It’s important to protect your hearing while you’re young if you want to prevent tinnitus in the future. You start by simply treating your ears with kindness. If you go somewhere where you expect to hear a constant loud noise or sudden bangs—fireworks shows, gun ranges, construction sites, and concerts—wear earplugs or muffs. Keep your ears clean. Don’t listen to your smartphone at full volume for more than 10 minutes at a time. Doing those things will go a long way toward protecting your hearing.
Tinnitus can’t always be prevented because for many it’s part of age-related hearing loss. If you’re unable to prevent getting it, there are treatments available and therapy that helps you to cope with the noise rather than being irritated by it.