What is Tinnitus
Tinnitus is when you experience ringing or other noises in one or both of your ears. The noise you hear when you have tinnitus isn’t caused by an external sound, and other people usually can’t hear it. Tinnitus is a common problem. It affects about 15% to 20% of people and is especially common in older adults. For some, it is felt like a buzzing or whistling sound that troubles them at night. Tinnitus is actually very common and affects about one in five people. The disturbance may be continuous or periodic in nature. The noise varies in intensity and duration depending on the individual. For some, it may be feeble, while in some others, the noise may be very high and disturbing. It may be felt in one ear or in both ears. Tinnitus is not a disease in itself but is a symptom of an underlying condition. In most cases, the sound is felt more at night as the background noise is less. Tinnitus is caused by a number of conditions. One of the most common causes of ringing in the ears is extensive exposure to loud sounds. Thus, it is very commonly seen among carpenters, street repair workers, and other people who often work around loud noises, music, and other sounds. In some cases, sudden exposure to loud sounds may also result in tinnitus.
Common causes of tinnitus include:
- Aging – Many of the inner sensitive parts of the ear may deteriorate with age leading to tinnitus.
- Ear blockage – Many conditions that lead to blockage of the ear including infections, accumulation of wax, and benign tumors may result in the ringing of the ears.
- Stiffening of ear bones – As bones in the middle ear become rigid, ringing may result.
- Medical conditions – Certain medical conditions like hypertension, cardiovascular disorders, anemia, allergy, and thyroid deficiency may all lead to this condition.
- Certain medications – Aspirin, certain antibiotics, sedatives, and antidepressants, usually have tinnitus as one of the side effects.
- Neck or head injury
- Meniere’s disease
Drinking alcohol and other caffeine-containing drinks, smoking, and eating certain kinds of foods may trigger tinnitus. One should remember to meet the doctor if the person develops tinnitus immediately after an infection of the upper respiratory system. This is particularly important if the condition does not improve even after a week of treatment. You should report to the doctor if the ringing starts without any obvious reasons or if you have hearing loss or dizziness along with the condition. Although not a serious condition, tinnitus can affect the quality of life of a person. It can result in fatigue, stress, difficulty in concentration, memory problems, and anxiety. The best way to relieve the symptoms is to control the underlying condition that results in tinnitus.
each of the eighth pair of cranial nerves, conveying sensory impulses from the organs of hearing and balance in the inner ear to the brain. The vestibulocochlear nerve on each side branches into the vestibular nerve and the cochlear nerve.
- Treating dysfunctions and obstructions. According to the American Tinnitus Association, most cases of tinnitus are caused by hearing loss. …
- Exercise. Exercise can have a big impact on your overall health and well-being. …
- Mindfulness-based stress reduction. …
- DIY mindfulness meditation.
Study Shows Brain Exercises May Help With Tinnitus
A study just published in JAMA Otolaryngology indicates that certain brain exercises from Posit Science may help patients better cope with tinnitus – a condition commonly referred to as “ringing in the ears.”
The US Centers for Disease Control estimates some 15% of Americans (about 50 million people) have experienced tinnitus; roughly 20 million Americans struggle with burdensome chronic tinnitus, and two million have extreme and debilitating cases. The global number has been estimated at about 360 million people.
In 99 percent of cases, people with tinnitus hear a persistent or intermittent sound (ringing, tones, buzzing, whistling, clicking, etc) that cannot be heard by others, nor objectively measured. In recent years, it has been reported that the incidence is particularly high among firefighters and other first responders exposed to loud sound blasts – a group that was heavily represented in this study.
Typically, individuals with tinnitus have worse than average working memory, selective attention, processing speed, and reaction times. The researchers hypothesized that since the plasticity-based brain exercises in BrainHQ had been shown effective in these areas in other populations, they might be beneficial in tinnitus.
In the study run at Washington University in St. Louis, researchers randomized 40 patients, who reported having bothersome tinnitus for at least six months, into an intervention and a no-contact control group. The intervention group was asked to train one hour a day, five days per week, for eight weeks with a regimen of online auditory brain training exercises derived from the online BrainHQ exercises from Posit Science. Another 20 healthy adults acted as a second control for comparison purposes.
Intervention and control participants were measured at the beginning and end of the eight-week training period across a number of behavioral and cognitive self-report instruments, through brain scans and qualitative assessment.
Researchers reported no significant between-group differences in the behavioral and cognitive self-report instruments, but the qualitative assessment indicated that half of the intervention group reported they felt improvement in their tinnitus.
When asked how much their tinnitus had changed from the start of the study, 50% of the intervention group reported they experienced improvement (with 30% reporting they were much or very much improved), as compared to only 15% in the control group who reported improvement (all of which was reported as a minimal improvement). Researchers noted that the qualitative assessment mainly reported improvements in tinnitus, memory, attention, and concentration.
The MRI neuro-imaging showed significant between-group differences, with the intervention group showing strengthening in areas associated with control and attention. The researchers found this to be consistent with the hypothesis that plasticity-based exercises drive structural changes in the brain associated with better outcomes.
“These are encouraging results in addressing a common condition that can have effects ranging from the bothersome to the severely debilitating and life-altering,” said Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science, the maker of the BrainHQ exercises. “These results further earlier work using our exercises and assessments in this area. We plan to seek additional support for further research, which may someday allow us to bring to market a targeted program for people with tinnitus.”
How Sound Works
It is also important to understand how sound works. Here we share with you a video from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) that demonstrates how sound is supposed to make its journey from an external source, through the ear to the brain where it is perceived and understood.
HOW COMMON IS TINNITUS?
Tinnitus affects approximately 15% of the overall population.
In general, there are two types of tinnitus:
Subjective Tinnitus: Head or ear noises that are perceivable only to the specific patient. Subjective tinnitus is usually traceable to auditory and neurological reactions to hearing loss, but can also be caused by an array of other catalysts. More than 99% of all tinnitus reported tinnitus cases are of the subjective variety.
Objective Tinnitus: Head or ear noises that are audible to other people, as well as the patient. These sounds are usually produced by internal functions in the body’s circulatory (blood flow) and somatic (musculo-skeletal movement) systems. Objective tinnitus is very rare, representing less than 1% of total tinnitus cases.
There is currently no scientifically-validated cure for most types of tinnitus. There are, however, treatment options that can ease the perceived burden of tinnitus, allowing patients to live more comfortable, productive lives. ATA is leading the charge in the ongoing search for a definitive tinnitus cure.
The word tinnitus is of Latin origin, meaning “to ring or tinkle.” Tinnitus has two different pronunciations, both of which are correct and interchangeable:
- ti-NIGHT-us :: typically used by patients and laypeople
- TINN-a-tus :: typically used by clinicians and researchers
Inhale and tighten only the muscles you are concentrating on for 8 seconds. Release them by suddenly letting go. Let the tightness and pain flow out of the muscles while you slowly exhale. Continue this progression systematically from your head down to your feet.
Massage for Tinnitus
Easing tension in specific muscles of the jaw and neck with medical massage treatments can reduce the intensity of Tinnitus symptoms. Medical massage targeting specific muscles of the neck, head, upper back, and jaw can release tension and reduce the intensity of Tinnitus symptoms.
Massage may help relieve tinnitus symptoms in multiple ways. Massage reduces stress, which can exacerbate both tinnitus and any underlying conditions. Massage can also resolve postural problems that may contribute to tinnitus.
Muscle tension can make tinnitus worse. Massage reduces tense muscles and corrects neck, head, and jaw misalignment which can place stress on the inner ear.
In one case study, a patient showed a reversal of tinnitus symptoms after 2.5 months of soft tissue massage, repetitive movements, and joint mobilization.
There are a few particular points around the ear and neck that can be targeted with massage to relieve symptoms of tinnitus. Grabbing the bottom of the earlobe and pulling it out to the side and upwards is a helpful maneuver. This stretching movement helps reduce inner ear fluid buildup, which can relieve ringing in the ears.
Another area of focus for tinnitus massage is the mastoid process, the bony part of the skull directly behind the ear. The mastoid process connects to many of the muscles surrounding the ear and neck. Massaging the mastoid process with a gentle Swedish massage can relieve tension in the neck and ear muscles and allow the neck to move back into correct alignment.
The masseter muscle, which attaches the jaw to the skull, is located at the corner of the jaw bone closest to the earlobe. The masseter muscle is the strongest muscle in the body in proportion to its size, and when it is overly tense it can contribute to misalignment and ringing in the ear. Any massage intended to relieve tinnitus will focus effort on the masseter muscle as well.
Reducing Muscle Tension
For many people with tinnitus, muscle tension only makes their symptoms worse. However, through quality massage therapy, one can address this issue.
By targeting the cervical and upper thoracic muscles (for neck and upper back issues) and the trapezius and scalenes (for shoulder and neck issues), we help reduce muscular tension through the use of deep tissue massage, myofascial release, scar tissue work, and more. As your muscles relax more fully, you’ll notice that tinnitus symptoms decrease as well.
Specific Target Points
In addition, massage therapy for tinnitus often involves targeting specific points near the source of pain. These points will usually be around the ear and neck and may involve themes like pulling the earlobe or working the neck muscles in a circular motion.
For best results, we’ll likely want to use a combination of these two massage therapy techniques, which are very effective at reducing muscle tension and relieving tinnitus.
Another major focus for tinnitus relief is the mastoid process or the bony part of your skull that sits right behind your ear. This area connects to various muscles in the ears and neck, and some gentle Swedish massage in this area relieves tension while allowing for proper alignment. This often reduces pain symptoms for those with tinnitus.
Finally, massage may also focus on the masseter muscle, which refers to the main muscle that’s on the outside of your face (and is responsible for chewing). If you’ve ever had a tooth pulled or jaw surgery, this muscle likely got very sore.
However, massaging this area with a gentle Swedish massage can have an immediate effect on tinnitus symptoms. As with any other painful issue, ongoing massage therapy is typically necessary to help maintain the temporary relief.
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*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company, or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.