Tinnitus comes from the Latin word ‘tinnire” which means to ring. Although classically depicted as ringing in the ears, tinnitus can take many forms such as buzzing, clicking, roaring, humming, and even can be faint or loud. The sound tinnitus makes varies from person to person, but the commonest form is the steady high-pitched ringing that can often be annoying. Tinnitus can be either unilateral (one ear) or bilateral (both ears). It is a common issue that affects about 10-15% of the global population and as many as 50 million Americans. While it usually affects adults usually those over the age of 50, it can also affect children and adolescents as well. Tinnitus itself is not a disease but rather a symptom of an underlying disorder. Other risk factors of tinnitus include:
- Exposure to loud noises (clubs, concerts, military personnel back from war)
- Those taking ototoxic medications
- Head and neck injuries
- Temporomandibular joint disorders
- And more.
Most patients who suffer from tinnitus would have adapted to their symptoms and can continue with their daily routines pretty well. However, there are also a small group of people who are severely affected and find their tinnitus to be debilitating to the point where their routines are disrupted. Other symptoms of tinnitus include:
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Poor focus
- Poor performance at school or work
- Some degree of hearing loss.
While there is no definite cure for tinnitus, there are several treatment options that can be utilized for patients who suffer from tinnitus. Since tinnitus can occur due to different underlying issues, the treatment for tinnitus also depends on the underlying cause of tinnitus. For example, surgical cases such as those with glomus tumors and experiencing tinnitus, a surgery o remove the tumor may be able to improve tinnitus symptoms if not alleviate it completely.
Loud Noises Causing Tinnitus
Those who experience tinnitus after exposure to loud noises can occur either:
- Suddenly – When tinnitus occurs suddenly due to a loud noise, it is usually due to a fairly loud volume and may be permanent. In a small portion of cases, the tinnitus can be permanent and no longer returns.
- Gradually – The most common tinnitus due to loud noise exposure tends to occur gradually and in intermittent stages. These patients often report tinnitus for a short time after being exposed to loud sounds. Once the noise source is removed, the tinnitus resolves together with it and stops until there is a next exposure. This on and off pattern may continue for several months or years with the duration of tinnitus becoming longer and longer until it reaches a constant. Th continuous exposure to loud noises can worsen tinnitus to the point where the tinnitus heard gets louder and also a change in pitch.
Noise is one of the commonest causes of hearing loss which can lead to tinnitus. It is also one of the commonest occupational hazards faced in the United States. For example, a gun being fired at close range has the potential to permanently damage your hearing permanently in an instant. Other examples of work hazards include occupations that involve the exposure to heavy machinery over an extended duration. According to the statistics gathered by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD):
- There are approximately 10 million Americans who have suffered from irreversible hearing damage due to loud noise exposure.
- Another 30-50 million of Americans are being exposed to dangerous noise levels every day.
What to do About Loud Noises Causing Tinnitus?
You may ask, since this is such a well-known issue, why does this problem still exist? Why has it become such a widespread issue? Some of the reasons include:
- Underestimation – Many tend to underestimate the effects of loud noise exposure as the damage often occurs gradually and the person affected may not realize until it is too late.
- Culture – In today’s society, construction on buildings and roads are a norm and the loud noises created have become an almost everyday occurrence especially in city life.
Although it may be detrimental to our hearing, there are no visible external changes which have led to the underappreciation of the seriousness of noise induced hearing loss that leads to tinnitus. Eventually, it becomes too late to try to save their hearing.
Is It More Serious Than What We Think It Is?
Almost all of us enjoy music and even if some of us don’t, I am sure there are certain sounds that you enjoy as well such as the chirping or birds, or waves, or the sound of falling rain. Imagine losing the ability to hear that sound ever again. Would it not be frustrating? When an individual is exposed to a loud noise for a long time either at home or work, the sensitive structures in the ear known as nerve hair cells can be damaged leading to noise induced hearing loss. this is an issue that is characterized by the loss of high frequency hearing sensitivity and usually occurs in both ears. This is often accompanied by tinnitus. Once tinnitus is established, it takes away the person’s “quiet”. They will never again be able to enjoy quietness as it would be replaced by tinnitus. Adults, children, and adolescents that are affected often feel annoyed, bothered, anxious, afraid, and the sound can even compete with speech. This means during conversation with another individual, tinnitus can often mask what they hear. Tinnitus can also cause insomnia as the sound they hear interferes with sleep and makes it hard for them to return to bed after waking up at night.
Conclusion on Loud Noises Causing Tinnitus
Loud noises are often the commonest cause of tinnitus. Since tinnitus affects individuals of all ages and can sometimes be debilitating and severe to the point where lives and daily routines are disrupted, care and prevention steps should be taken to minimize the risk of tinnitus by reducing exposure to loud noises. Ear mufflers or ear plugs can be used in unavoidable circumstances such as for work hazards while children and adolescents who listen to music through earphones should be advised to lower the volume.