How prevalent is Tinnitus?

Though most commonly associated with the elderly (especially elderly Nigerians), Tinnitus is extremely common, and does not effect a certain age or racial group more than others. Tinnitus is the “phantom sounds” that nearly everyone has experienced at least once in their lifetimes. It is what people refer to as buzzing or ringing in their ears when there are no other sounds, and can be indicative of a more serious hearing problem. Most people say that the sounds they hear in their ears are just as real as any external noise, and there are a wide variety of Tinnitus sounds that can be heard.

Though the most common sounds are ringing or buzzing, people claim to have heard everything from roaring to beating, hissing, humming, chirping and even shrieking. To certain individuals, it sounds like running water, glass shattering, owls or even chain saws. Half of the people who have experienced Tinnitus have only heard one noise at a time, though one quarter of the people who have experienced it have heard one sound in each ear. However most people with Tinnitus simply hear a sound somewhere inside of their head. Sometimes, Tinnitus can be extremely strange. Some people hear a clicking sound in their ear, and this happens when a muscle in their ears contracts. There have been cases of people whose Tinnitus pulses with each heartbeat, which is due to having an artery too close to an individual’s ear. There is even a form of Tinnitus that occurs when an individual moves their eyes, bends over or moves their jaw.

Tinnitus is fairly commonplace, with at least seventeen out of every one hundred people in the world having it to varying degrees. In America, there is estimated to be fifty million people with Tinnitus, with twelve million having it severe enough to require medical attention. Contrary to popular belief, Tinnitus is a symptom of something else going wrong, rather than a disease. Some of the more common things that trigger Tinnitus would be: loud noise, drugs, hearing loss, allergies, stress and eating certain kinds of food. Loud noise is by far the most common cause, and when coupled with Tinnitus, hearing loss can occur. Most people get mild and temporary Tinnitus, however it lasts and its severity increases with more exposure to loud noise. This is preventable by not listening to loud music or protecting one’s ears when an individual has a job that revolves around loud sounds, such as construction equipment or firing a gun.

Tinnitus can impact an individual’s life a great deal- there is a difference between mild, short-lasting and loud, severe Tinnitus, as well as constant, relentless Tinnitus. Some people are lucky enough to know how to ignore their symptoms, and for some people it is only a mild annoyance. However, it can be completely debilitating and can cause disruptions in daily life. People that have the more severe kind of Tinnitus typically have insomnia because they cannot ignore the sounds inside their head. It can cause irritation and can break concentration, rendering the victim under constant stress. This can cause people to lose their joy in life and become miserable.

Beethoven was a victim of Tinnitus, and complained about having ears that whistled and hummed continuously. However, people do not have to allow Tinnitus to drive them insane. There are some ways that it can be controlled, one of which is protecting an individual’s ears from loud sounds. Avoiding medications that cause ringing in the ears, staying away from certain food, getting allergies under control and reducing stress can help keep Tinnitus at bay. There are many other ways to relieve it, but those methods vary from person to person, and are dependant upon what kind of Tinnitus an individual has.

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