Preventing Tinnitus

By: Dr. Kent Collins, TeleHear

Over 50 million American suffer from some form of tinnitus – sound heard in the head usually described as ringing, hissing, or buzzing. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that approximately ½ of these individuals experience chronic tinnitus while 2 million suffer from debilitating cases. There are a plethora of treatment options including over-the-counter supplements, psychological counseling techniques, sound therapy, and sound stimulus through hearing aid treatment. None have eliminated tinnitus.

Like any preventable condition, the best way to not suffer from tinnitus is to change your behaviors to prevent it from happening.

We know the most common cause of tinnitus is inner ear damage and the number one cause of inner ear damage is noise exposure. Thus it makes sense the best way to prevent tinnitus is to prevent noise exposure.

What is noise exposure? Noise exposure tends to have two forms: impulsive noise blasts and chronic noise exposure.

  • Impulsive noise blasts are extremely loud, often short during, booms of damaging noise. Most commonly impulsive noise exposure occurs from a gunshot that can cause inner ear hair cell damage from even a one-time occurrence. Other causes of impulsive noise exposure are explosions, car accidents, and some work place injuries.
  • Chronic noise exposure is commonly associated with repeated, day after day, noise exposure at work. For example, factor workers or heavy equipment operators. Another common cause of chronic noise exposure is repeatedly listening to music that is too loud through earbuds.

Regardless if impulsive noise blasts or chronic noise exposure occurs, utilizing hearing protection is the only effective way to prevent inner ear damage. Preventing noise damage from occurring in the first place will lower your risk of experiencing tinnitus.

There are many forms of hearing protection ranging from low cost foam ear plugs to high end custom made in-the-ear sound attenuators. Please consult your local hearing care provider for the best options in hearing protection.

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