Tinnitus Awareness


Christian Coleman

For the longest time, I assumed that the ringing in my ears was normal. From what I remember, I’ve had to deal with this since I was born and it’s only been the norm. For me, true silence has never been heard. I remember trying to explain it to my parents at a very young age, but I always had a hard time describing it. My freshman year of high school, I got screened for this ringing. When I met my doctor, he told me that I had something called “tinnitus,” which is the medical term for “ringing in the ears.”

What does it sound like? Well, it varies from person to person. Those who have tinnitus have said that it sounds something like sirens, cicadas, clicking, roaring, ringing, or various buzzes. To me the ringing that I experience sounds like the aftermath of a grenade going off in movies. This high pitched ring goes on 24/7. It’s not as bad as it sounds, but I understand that if someone is new to it, it can be absolutely annoying.

There are different types of tinnitus: subjective (the most common), sensory, somatic, and objective (the rarest type).

Subjective tinnitus is usually caused by exposure to loud noises. This includes going to concerts, attending loud stadium events, or listening to music too loud. This is usually treated with white noise, or hearing aids in some cases. The goal of white noise is to distract the person from the ringing. Sometimes this can get irritating, and distracting for those who are experiencing it. Having conversations and finding distractions has helped me; however, I understand that this may not help everyone. When you’re busy doing something, it’s becomes easier to zone out the noise.

Sensory tinnitus is actually considered a form of subjective tinnitus. The brain processes sounds in different ways due to some hearing or brain disorders.

Somatic is an interesting form of tinnitus, as it is linked to physical movement and touch. Treatments such as massage therapy can help lessen the effects of somatic tinnitus. Spasms in the neck and ears can cause a ringing in the ears. In fact, the word somatic comes from Greek word soma, meaning “of the body.”

The rarest, and most interesting form of tinnitus (to me, at least) is objective tinnitus. This is the only type of tinnitus that can be heard from someone other than the person who has the tinnitus. The noise is usually listened to with a stethoscope. The upside to objective tinnitus is that its cause can be identified, meaning that it can potentially be cured. It is worth mentioning that other types of tinnitus have no known cure, only treatments that can help lessen the impact of the noise.

As said before, there is no known cure for tinnitus. However, there are treatments that can help ease those who experience it. White noise machines can be helpful for those who struggle to sleep as a result of tinnitus. Even turning on a fan in the bedroom can be helpful. Some low doses of anti-anxiety medications can also help lessen the impacts of tinnitus. Believe it or not, acupuncture can help out with this, too.