Is Your Tinnitus Being Caused by Your Environment?

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

Tinnitus is an extremely common condition of the ear. Some estimates indicate that 10 percent of people experience tinnitus at one time or another, making it one of the most prevalent health conditions in the world. The condition manifests as a sound in the ear that isn’t really there, typically, it’s a buzzing or ringing, but tinnitus can manifest as other sounds also.

Unfortunately, the causes of tinnitus aren’t as obvious as the symptoms. In part, that’s because tinnitus could result from a wide array of causes, some of which are temporary and others that can be more long lasting.

That’s why your environment can be really important. If the background sound of your particular setting is very noisy, you might be harming your hearing. If your tinnitus is due to damage, it could end up being permanent.

Why do so many individuals experience tinnitus?

When you hear sounds that aren’t actually present, that’s tinnitus. Tinnitus normally manifests as a ringing or buzzing, but can also manifest as other sounds, like screeching, thumping, or humming. Typically, the sounds are consistent or rhythmic. For the majority of people, tinnitus will happen over a short period of time before solving itself and going away. Though not as common, chronic tinnitus is effectively permanent.

There are a couple of reasons why tinnitus is so prevalent. The first is that the environmental factors that contribute to tinnitus are also fairly common (more on that soon). The second reason is that tinnitus is usually a symptom of a root condition or injury. Put simply, there are many such injuries or conditions that can trigger tinnitus. As a result, tinnitus tends to be rather common.

How can the environment impact tinnitus?

There are a large number of factors that can contribute to tinnitus symptoms, including ototoxic chemicals and medications. However, when the majority of people talk about “environment” in terms of tinnitus, they really mean the noise. For instance, some locations are louder than others (traffic noise in some areas can get extraordinarily high). Likewise, anybody who works around industrial equipment all day would be at risk of their environment exacerbating their tinnitus.

When assessing the state of your health, these environmental factors are really important.

Noise induced damage, as with hearing loss, can cause tinnitus symptoms. When tinnitus is caused by noise damage, it’s normally chronic and often permanent. Some of the most prevalent noise and environment-induced causes of tinnitus include the following:

  • Music: Listening to music at loud volumes is a fairly common practice. Tinnitus will often be the result if you do this regularly.
  • Events: Tinnitus can sometimes result from loud noises, even if they aren’t experienced over a long duration. Shooting a gun or going to a rock concert are examples of this kind of noise.
  • 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 places for eight hours a day, whether it’s industrial equipment or the din of a lot of people talking in an office.
  • Traffic: Traffic in densely populated places can be a lot louder than you may expect it to be. And noise damage can occur at a lower volume than you may expect. Tinnitus and hearing damage can be the outcome of long commutes in these loud settings.

People frequently wrongly believe hearing damage will only happen at extreme volume levels. Consequently, it’s important to use 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 resolve? Well, in some instances it may. But your symptoms may be permanent in some instances. There’s no way to know which is which at the beginning. Moreover, just because your tinnitus has gone away for now doesn’t mean that noise damage hasn’t occurred, resulting in an increased risk of chronic tinnitus in the future.

One of the most significant contributing factors to the advancement of tinnitus is that individuals tend to underestimate the volume at which damage occurs to their ears. If you experience tinnitus, your body is telling you that damage has already likely occurred. This means that there are a number of things that you should do to alter your environment so as to prevent more permanent damage.

For instance, you could try:

  • Reducing the amount of time you spend in noisy environments without giving your ears a chance to recover.
  • Using hearing protection (either earplugs or earmuffs) in order to prevent damage. Noise canceling headphones can also be an asset in this regard.
  • Lowering the volume of your environment where possible. For example, you could shut the windows if you live in a noisy area or turn off industrial machinery that is not in use.

How to manage your symptoms

Lots of individuals who experience chronic tinnitus find the symptoms to be extremely distracting and uncomfortable. This prompts them to try and find a way to ease the intensity of their symptoms.

If you hear a buzzing or ringing sound, it’s essential to make an appointment, particularly if the sound won’t go away. We can help you figure out the best way to manage your particular situation. For the majority of cases of chronic tinnitus, there’s no cure. Symptom management might include the following:

  • Retraining therapy: You can sometimes retrain your ears with the help of a specialist, which will slowly retrain the way you process sound.
  • White noise devices: Using a white noise device around your house can help you tune out your tinnitus in some cases.
  • Hearing aid: The ringing or buzzing created by tinnitus can be drowned out by amplifying the volume of outside sounds with hearing aids.
  • Masking device: This is a device that fits like a hearing aid and plays sounds that mask your symptoms. Your device will be specifically calibrated to mask your tinnitus symptoms.
  • Relaxation techniques: High blood pressure has sometimes been associated with an increase in the severity of tinnitus symptoms. So taking a little time to relax (with meditation, for example) can sometimes help decrease your tinnitus symptoms.

Tinnitus is not curable. A great first step would be to safeguard your hearing by controlling your environment.

But treating and controlling tinnitus is possible. Depending on your lifestyle, your hearing, and your tinnitus, we’ll be able to formulate a specific treatment plan for you. For some people, dealing with your tinnitus may simply mean utilizing a white noise machine. For other people, management might be more intense.

Set up an appointment to learn how to manage your tinnitus symptoms.

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.