Is Your Environment The Cause of Your Tinnitus?

Worried man listening to a ringing in his ear. Tinnitus concept

Tinnitus is an exceptionally common condition of the ear. Some estimates indicate that 10 percent of people have tinnitus at one time or another, making it one of the most prevalent health conditions in the world. Even though the most common manifestation of tinnitus is a phantom ringing or buzzing in your ear, it can also present as other sounds too.

Unfortunately, the causes of tinnitus aren’t as evident as the symptoms. Some of the wide range of tinnitus causes are temporary, while others can be more long term.

This is why environmental factors can play a major role in tinnitus symptoms. If the background sound of your particular setting is very noisy, you could be damaging your hearing. If your tinnitus is caused by damage, it could end up being permanent.

What is tinnitus (and why is it so common)?

When you hear sounds that aren’t actually there, that’s tinnitus. For most people, tinnitus manifests as a buzzing or ringing, but it may perhaps also present as thumping, humming, screeching, or other sounds as well. Usually, the sounds are consistent or rhythmic. For most people, tinnitus will occur over a short period of time before solving itself and vanishing. In less common cases, tinnitus might become effectively permanent, a condition known as chronic tinnitus.

There are a couple of reasons why tinnitus is so common. The first is that the environmental factors that contribute to tinnitus are also relatively common (more on that in a bit). Root conditions and injuries can contribute to tinnitus symptoms and that accounts for the second reason. In other words, there are many such injuries or conditions that can result in tinnitus. Consequently, tinnitus tends to be rather common.

How can the environment affect tinnitus?

Other things can also produce tinnitus, including ototoxic medications and chemicals. But when it comes to “environmental” triggers, noise is the biggest offender. Some settings, such as noisy city streets, can get very loud. Somebody would be in danger of environmental tinnitus, for instance, if they worked around loud industrial equipment.

These environmental factors can be incredibly significant when considering your hearing health.

As with hearing loss, noise-induced damage can eventually trigger tinnitus symptoms. In these cases, the resulting tinnitus tends to be chronic in nature. Some of the most common noise and environment-induced causes of tinnitus include the following:

  • Traffic: You may not even recognize how loud traffic can be in heavily populated locations. And you may not even realize that your ears can be damaged at lower volumes than you might expect. Tinnitus and hearing damage can be the outcome of long commutes in these noisy settings.
  • Noise in the workplace: It may come as a surprise that many workplaces, sometimes even offices, are fairly noisy. Tinnitus can eventually result from being in these settings for eight hours a day, whether it’s industrial equipment or the din of lots of people talking in an office.
  • Events: If noise is loud enough, even over short stretches, tinnitus can sometimes be the outcome. For example, going to a concert or using firearms can both lead to tinnitus if the volumes get to a high enough level.
  • Music: Listening to music at loud volumes is a pretty common practice. Doing this on a regular basis can frequently result in tinnitus symptoms.

People often wrongly believe hearing damage will only occur at extreme volume levels. As a result, it’s essential to wear hearing protection before you think you might need it. Hearing protection can help prevent tinnitus symptoms from developing in the first place.

If I’m experiencing tinnitus, what should I do?

So, does tinnitus go away? Maybe, in some instances. In other situations, your symptoms could be permanent. There’s no way to tell which is which at the beginning. Moreover, just because your tinnitus has reseeded doesn’t mean that noise damage has not happened, leading to an increased risk of chronic tinnitus in the future.

People often underestimate the minimum volume that damage starts to occur, which is the most significant contributing factor to its advancement. If you experience tinnitus, your body is telling you that damage has already probably happened. If this is the situation, finding and changing the source of the noise damage is crucial to prevent further damage.

For example, you could try:

  • If you’re in a loud environment, regulate the amount of exposure time and give your ears rests.
  • If possible, try to decrease environmental volume. If you have any machinery that’s not in use, turn it off, and close the windows if it’s noisy outside, for example.
  • Using hearing protection (either earplugs or earmuffs) in order to counter damage. Noise canceling headphones can also be an asset in this regard.

Managing symptoms

Lots of people who experience persistent tinnitus find the symptoms to be extremely disruptive and uncomfortable. This prompts them to try and find a way to ease the severity of their symptoms.

You should give us a call for an appointment if you’re hearing a persistent buzzing or ringing in your ears. We will be able to evaluate your symptoms and identify how best to address them. For the majority of cases of chronic tinnitus, there’s no cure. Symptom management may include the following:

  • Masking device: This is a device that fits like a hearing aid and plays sounds to mask your symptoms. Your device will be specially calibrated to mask your symptoms of tinnitus.
  • White noise devices: In some cases, you can tune out some of your tinnitus symptoms by using a white noise generator around your home.
  • Relaxation techniques: High blood pressure has sometimes been connected to an increase in the severity of tinnitus symptoms. So taking some time to relax (with meditation, for instance) can sometimes help reduce your tinnitus symptoms.
  • Hearing aid: The ringing or buzzing created by tinnitus can be drowned out by raising the volume of outside sounds with hearing aids.
  • Retraining therapy: In some situations, you can work with a specialist to retrain your ears, slowly modifying the way you process sound.

There’s no cure for tinnitus. A great first step would be to protect your hearing by managing your environment.

But addressing and controlling tinnitus is possible. We’ll be able to formulate a specific treatment plan based on your hearing, your tinnitus, and your lifestyle. A white noise machine, for many, might be all that’s needed. For others, management might be more intense.

Learn how to best manage your tinnitus by making an appointment right away!

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.